At age 29, Leah Pringle-Sarno is a self-made entrepreneur times three — and, so far, she’s been successful at each business endeavor she’s put her small but mighty frame behind.
To the casual observer, Pringle-Sarno would best be described as a ‘creative-preneur’ as she blends her creative and personal passions — from events planning to cat-sitting to vintage collecting to editorial design.
For the most part, she’s done this seamlessly. Most recently, she founded Canopy Room, a lush, velvety and plant-filled private and public events space in Somerville’s hot new Bow Market, which opened back in November 2018.
Clients can rent out the space for social gatherings, yoga classes, spiritual workshops or editorial photoshoots. Really, whatever works. Above all, the space is meant to be inspiring and is built for the community. Not to mention, Canopy Room is equipped with a full liquor license, so the possibilities are wide open.
But, first, there was Cat Lady. …
Pringle-Sarno may be young, but she’s got the chops.
In 2013, Pringle-Sarno was working for a small events production company, organizing fundraising events and galas for mostly non-profit clients.
“It gave me a lot of insight and experience in what it takes to run an event on the logistical side of things,” says Pringle-Sarno. But, she says, “After years of doing that, it became hard to pour from an empty cup.”
Two years later and burned out, Pringle-Sarno threw herself into a completely different type of endeavor when she launched Cat Lady Boston, a cat-sitting company. “I started a company to find some anxiety relief in doing something that I loved,” she says, “which was taking care of cats.”
Fast-forward another couple years and Pringle-Sarno branched out to her next company, Tabby Road Designs. She was ready to get her hands dirty in events planning again — this time with a focus on vintage and boho design. “I was craving that creative element in my life,” she says. “I needed an outlet.”
Her first client was herself; she planned her own wedding in her signature aesthetic with DIY elements and vintage items.
Both companies remain in operation.
The Organic Origins of Canopy Room
With Canopy Room. Pringle-Sarno has melded all her artistic talents into a successful business model.
Originally, she approached Bow Market, a marketplace for local, small businesses, as her small business Tabby Road Design, and opened a pop-up shop selling vintage items from her personal collection that was gathering dust in her parent’s basement. Although she enjoyed being part of the Bow Market community for a short time, she realized she didn’t want to part with her the furniture, rugs, glassware, and other items she had sourced from local thrift stores, estate sales, auctions and, even, friends’ grandparents’ attics.
Even though the retail business didn’t work out for Pringle-Sarno, she says she still, “thrived with other vendors in the market and wanted to hang around. I wanted to figure out how to stay.”
She formed relationships with the other business owners, as well as the founders of the market, who let Pringle-Sarno rent out the empty storefront space for a bachelorette brunch she planned for her friends.
“It was an empty box at that point. There was only a leather couch, white walls, nothing on the floor,” Pringle-Sarno describes. “I ended up bringing all of my curated pieces.”
The Bow Market team was impressed with the results and brought on Pringle-Sarno to design the space as a permanent events room and run it as the events coordinator.
“This was a dream come true [and it happened] in such an organic way,” she says.
Creating a Transportive Experience
With four days until Bow Market launched their grand opening on Nov. 3, 2018, Pringle-Sarno dreamed up a bohemian jungle design that would “attract people to the space and make them feel like they’re not in Boston anymore.”
The room is outfitted generously with several vintage rugs carefully placed throughout, velvet and woven armchairs and couches providing living-room style seating, and plants everywhere you turn. Fairy lights, stylish pillows, gold mirrors and a cozy bar complete the experience.
“A lot of items you see in Canopy Room were part of my personal collection and have been used for different events,” she says.
Most recently, local artist Mark Grundig added a backdrop to the room — a mossy green and metallic hand-painted mural, easily mistaken as wallpaper with its floral pattern.
Pringle-Sarno’s benchmark was to make it fit for Instagram. “I wanted to create a beautiful space that is events-centric, for a lot of people to connect.”
A Space for the Community
When it comes to event planning, designing a space itself can be just as laborious as planning the event, says Pringle-Sarno. “I found that people are craving a space that’s already created and that can give them a certain feeling.”
For visitors of Canopy Room, these feelings range from wonder to nostalgia. “It’s intriguing to me to see how these different elements evoke the senses and make you feel you’re in a different time or place,” says Pringle-Sarno.
In contrast, other event spaces in the Boston area cater to the corporate world and are more functional and modern.
“People get different feelings from it but the fact that they’re having feelings — that’s our goal,” says Pringle-Sarno.
Pringle-Sarno recently launched a dance party series every Friday night called Velvet, where people can dance, socialize and imbibe from 8 p.m. to midnight.
On Monday mornings, a children’s music and movement class is open to families, and coming up in April, every Wednesday night, Canopy Room will transform into a performance venue with movie nights, burlesque and open-mic nights.
The ideas, the collaborations and the creations never stop for Pringle-Sarno.
“We want it to be an immersive experience when people come to Bow Market,” she says, “and we want to continue to tap into the surrounding community more than anything.”