Smell doesn’t work like memory. It’s not always specific; sometimes it’s just an idea, something nameless we carry with us that brings us back to where and when we first experienced it. For Melissa Condotta, founder of plant-based apothecary Sunday’s Company, recreating that feeling is a strange alchemy.
There’s a physical element to creating a scent, one that calls on the organic properties of plants to nourish, heal or soothe. “Like what a pine needle can do for your skin,” says Condotta. “But then there’s also a kind of magic about it… what it represents. What feelings a scent generates.”
Like the magical yet unplaceable feeling of the County itself, Condotta’s interpretation of what Wander’s little sliver of the County represents is part of the Wander experience. Sunday’s Company hand soap, room spray, hand sanitizer, and body oil welcome guests when they settle into their cabins; the unique scent Condotta created specially for Wander drifts from diffusers. It’s there in the peripheral, but that unmistakable feeling envelops.
When it's meant to be...
Condotta says it felt like one of those “meant to be” moments when she was asked by the team at Wander to create a custom scent. “Talking to [Wander founder] Shannon about the experience she wants her guests to have — getting away from home but not making it an Airbnb, making it about staying on the resort and cozying up … it was just a great concept,” she says. That feeling of being out in the fresh air, surrounded by your friends and families and your dog, all that resonated with Condotta. “It was a dream project. It just felt natural, like it could have been my thing.”
With the Wander scent, she says she was trying to capture that feeling of being in nature. “It is very forest-y,” says Condotta. It draws from the nostalgia of campfires, a key element of the Wander experience. “(But) there's just a hint, a lingering little smokiness at the end — spruce and pine make up a lot of it.
It’s clear when Condotta talks about her craft that much of what she does comes from a secret language she’s developed, this ability to speak in not just smells but nostalgia itself. She’s quick to explain it’s not as whimsy as it sounds. It’s a learned skill, a talent she’s cultivated over the past four years.
A decade ago, says Condotta, she happily identified as a city girl, living on one of Toronto’s busiest arteries, trying to keep up. Her husband, a dog psychologist, needed land and space; they both needed distance from the city. Condotta remembered an 18-year-old version of herself standing on a hill near St. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, already daydreaming of some future life. They started looking and in 2013, they bought a property nestled in the same Northumberland Hills, just north of the County.
Sunday’s Company came out of a deal she made with herself to embody what being out here meant. To find that connection with community, with nature. She started taking workshops that connected her with her new home. One day, in the middle of a foraging workshop, it occurred to her that her interest in exploring and gathering was more than just passing. “I was in the middle of a field picking what we would call weeds and I was just like, whoa... and then it just blossomed from there. I didn't care about plants, but when I came out here, I made myself a promise that I'm just going to throw myself into country living."
"I think part of the magic of being out here is that everybody appreciates it so much … people are generally just happier. It's just a magical place"
Melissa Condotta, Founder
Watering the seeds of inspiration
She took courses about the chemistry of plants and herbs and spent two years making a plan to redefine the tedious and expensive mainstream skincare routine, replacing it with simply made, natural skincare products. “Slow beauty,” as she calls it.
Four years ago, she launched her plant-based apothecary. Today she has a sweeping collection of naturally-derived face oils and therapeutics, balms and soaking salts. “I had no idea this was something I was going to do,” she says.
Condotta focuses on using the whole plant as opposed to simply drawing from essential oils. The majority of the plants and herbs used in Sunday's Company products are harvested from her land or ethically gathered from the surrounding forests and meadows. She does all the processing and infusing herself then bottles, labels and packages every item — an unbreakable connection between the earth and the things she creates.
"It makes sense to want to capture that feeling of warmth and nature, to bottle that feeling of quiet balance, that feeling of home, memorable but nameless. It feels like I was supposed to be here all along."
For Condotta, the County is a special place. She divides her time between her studio in Warkworth and Field Made Goods, a makerspace in Picton where she sells Sunday’s Company products. This area is a place where you live through the landscape and see the seasons change in the details. It’s a place where you feel a sense of community.