Linda Connors McCarthy started dreaming of opening a sports bar when she was 18. She believed that years of work in the restaurant industry and experience bartending prepared her. She also had friends who offered to financially support her.

But it wasn’t until now, 40 years later with an entirely different career behind her, that McCarthy established a new entrepreneurial dream.

“I didn’t want to take anybody else’s money. I was afraid; what if it failed?” she said. “I would hate to think that I would lose someone else’s money, and so I never did it.”

She instead pursued a career as a student counselor and stuck with it until six months into the COIVD-19 pandemic, fall 2020.

“I couldn’t really teach them any social skills because they were home, and their emotional issues often time stemmed from things they wanted to keep private, so you couldn’t really talk about them remotely with people around,” McCarthy said.

She quit after a problem with her contract, and at 58 years old decided to chase her dormant dream. Her business plans had changed a bit, but on May 9, 2021, McCarthy opened Elsie’s Pantry and began selling locally sourced home goods.

“I have always loved these kinds of shops and I have always loved makers. I love things that are handmade. There is a lot of artistry to it, and I would much rather see people buying from their neighbors than online,” McCarthy said.

She said the final push to open was influenced by her longtime dream and her children.

“Honestly, they believe everything I said to them. So when I said to them I was opening a store, I couldn’t back down,” McCarthy said. “The thought of not doing it was scarier to me than doing it.”

Starting an in-person business during the height of the pandemic wasn’t ideal.

“I had friends who thought I was absolutely crazy,” McCarthy said.

One of many pandemic problems arose when McCarthy began trying to fill the store with products. There were no vendor shows.

Instead, she had to research each product on her own, a processes she involved her family in.

“People would send me the products to try and if I liked them, I would have a family member try them or a friend and if they liked them they wound up here. So I knew everything here was good,” she said.

While she does offer curbside pickup, having a physical location was important to McCarthy.

“I really like people,” she said. “I have people that come in her now and we just talk. Some people just want to come in and be neighborly.”

McCarthy estimates that 80% of her products are locally sourced. Pointing to a shelf, she recalls where each product came from, listing off Ipswich, Middleton, Sunderland, Lowell and Essex.

“It is not only supporting me, it’s supporting local makers,” McCarthy said.

She found success selling gift baskets, especially around holidays. She has prioritized sustainability by selling products like reusable candles.

Plans are in the works to add crystals and aromatherapy.

Elsie’s Pantry is located on 90 Main St., Andover.

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