Kim Napolitano-Perry

 

Former radio show host and English teacher, Kim Napolitano-Perry markets her handmade balsam and lavender sachets, eye pillows and room sprays under the name Perry Home Naturals. She sells on Etsy, at trade shows, in stores and at local fairs and farmers markets. She lives in South Paris with her husband Walter Perry and their 10-year-old daughter Veronica, who, like her mother, is also a maker. 

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I was born and raised in Queens, New York. My dad worked in Manhattan at Carnegie Towers. He was the second in charge building handyman for 20 years.
He has always been this really talented person. When I was really little, he made me tiny leather skirts and baby clothes. When he decided to become a carpenter, he just read books.
My mother was a paramedic and a paramedic instructor. She is still driving an ambulance.
When I was 11 or 12, I had a job delivering Penny Savers. My mom helped me put all these different circulars together. Every weekend I would deliver them on foot using a shopping cart. There were 250 of them. I was a little peanut so it took a long time. I didn’t last too long. I remember not wanting a job like that again.
I went to a private school called Long Island Lutheran, which still exists today and which is a really good school. I was super rebellious and thought I knew everything, but I got a good education.
I always gravitated towards music and art. I was the first female drummer in my high school. I played drums and sang and was in a bunch of different bands. My stepfather was an accordion player. He was a huge influence on me.
I graduated from high school in 1982. I went to Franklin Pierce University. I was going to be a writer.
I left after a couple of years partially because of financial reasons but also because I was not taking it seriously. I went back home and stayed with my mom. I got a job at Barnes and Nobles in their cafe.
I was there for a long time. I learned a lot about marketing, doing retail, and customer service. I went to community college while I was working. I took photography classes, ceramics, and psychology. I still swore I was going to write the greatest novel ever.
I got a degree in English with a concentration in psychology at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). It was the best university I ever went to.
I ended up moving to Vermont after that. I lived in Warren is which was like Walden with trees all over the place.
I ended up becoming friends with two girls who lived across the driveway. One of them named Jackie was a middle school teacher. She also worked at a radio station. The other worked at a posh day spa.
I spent my time hiking and writing. Then,  I got a job at the day spa. Then, I met an owner of a restaurant and got a job there.
One day one of Jackie said, “You have great voice for radio.” She’d decided she couldn’t teach and do radio too, so she was leaving her spot. She thought I should try to do it.
The station was actually two stations—WIZN, a classic rock station, and WBTZ or The Buzz, which played alternative rock. I worked at The Buzz. We had a quarter-million listeners reaching all the way from Montreal to Plattsburgh, New York.
I got a weekend spot first and then a morning show. I did that with a man who was from England. I would do the news, sports, and weather, and he would just be goofy. He was hilarious. We had good chemistry on the air. It was fun.
I started doing radio in 2000. Sometime before 2002 began, a 16-year-old intern who I had helped asked, “Have you ever been a teacher?” I‘d always said I would never be a teacher. Because of that, I thought, Maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it.
I went back to Queens College to get a teaching certificate. Then I went to Utah to work at a private school. It was the best first year of teaching. The principal was really great, and the staff fostered me well.
After three years, I moved back to Long Island. I’d decided I wanted to live in Maine, so I went to Kinko’s with my dad and sent out 15 teaching applications. I had an offer at Westbrook and an interview in Millinocket. Originally Oxford Hills was not hiring, but then a job opened.
There were six people on the hiring committee, including Walter. It was the best interview I have ever had. As soon as it was over, the assistant principal said. “We want to give you the job.” Though I only had an hour to decide, everything inside me said, “This is what I want to do.”
I started in 2006. Walter and I started dating. Things progressed. I moved from freshman to sophomores the next year. We got married. Then my third year we had our daughter.
We decided I would stay home with Veronica. About the time she was 4 or 5 months old, I started making sachets filled with pine needles as gifts for the holidays. One day, while Veronica was sitting on my lap, I discovered Etsy and opened my own Etsy shop called Winter Solstice Dreams.
As Veronica grew, so did my business. I became a part of Maine Made and United Maine Craftsmen. I made more products and got better at making.
The irony is just as I rebranded as Perry Home Naturals in 2015 someone then left Oxford Hills. I went back to teaching.
The business took a back seat, but I was overwhelmed. One day while I was making something, I started to cry. Veronica, who was 8 said, “You’re much happier when you are creating.” I reopened my Etsy shop and resigned from teaching in June of 2018.
Even on the tough days, I love where I am. It’s nice to know what I am good at. In retrospect, everything worked out.

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