John and Sarah Raleigh
By Kathleen Downey
John and Sarah Raleigh are seated inside the couple’s 1750 South End home at a long, antique wooden table that had belonged to Sarah’s great-grandmother. Their interplay as they chat about their business—Raleigh Design—and about their passions is amicable, animated, and a bit sly (Sarah casts a sidelong glance in her husband’s direction each time he says something that warrants a good-natured rebuke). The couple’s conversation is accompanied by bursts of genuine laughter that fills the room.
“We appreciate our differences,” John says with a smile that hints at a playful marital conspiracy, in describing how they complement one another as business partners.
“I always planned to have my own business,” Sarah reveals.
“Really?” John asks, authentically incredulous. “Huh . . .” He appears to take a moment to contemplate his wife’s revelation (while Sarah gives him one of her sidelong glances). “I didn’t,” he admits with uncensored candor, throwing his head back and laughing, fully comfortable that his laughter is at his own expense.
In 2001, after more than 20 years as a successful consultant in the high tech industry, John joined Sarah in her business venture. “I decided that I’d rather enjoy life,” John says of his decision to leave corporate culture for a simpler lifestyle.
But it was his experience as a young man hiking the Appalachian Trail that John says “most influenced” his life’s path (even if, he allows, he wasn’t consciously planning his life, as was his future wife).
“Hiking the Appalachian Trail is probably what got me to Antarctica and then into a career in high tech,” John speculates.
After hiking the trail, the native of Dighton, MA, and UMass Dartmouth graduate spent one year at the South Pole. It was the late 1970s and John was serving as a contractor with the National Science Foundation. (“The first ozone research was performed in Antarctica,” John shares.) “I was the station supply person in charge of cargo—everything and anything came through me,” he says. John recalls the 108 degree-below-zero days that were cloaked in frigid darkness. “There was nothing to see there but ice—compacted snow—all around.”
Sarah, who grew up in Ithaca, NY, and graduated from UMass Amherst, remembers her first job with great fondness. “I worked for the New England Aquarium,” she shares, “as assistant to the curator in the design department. I loved it!” In the evenings, she attended Mass College of Art and earned a certificate in graphic design.
John and Sarah’s migratory paths led them to Newburyport.
John had been living in Amesbury but traveled over the Chain Bridge several times a week to the Newburyport Art Association. A photographer with more than 30 years experience, John taught classes there and also served a term as president.
Sarah, who had been living in Boston, moved to Newburyport to share an apartment with a friend.
“John and I were in a photo interest group at the Art Association,” Sarah offers.
“Photography allows you to look at subjects more closely,” explains John. “You see things in minute detail.”
“You can capture the beautiful . . . even in something ordinary,” adds Sarah, explaining her passion for photography.
Each has won awards for their respective photography.
Through their photo interest group, the two clicked.
The couple married in 2000.
And they melded their creative strengths and passions in the company that they operate together today.
Raleigh Design, which the couple runs out of their home, is a creative enterprise that offers artistic graphic design along with photography and website services.
Sarah is the company’s graphic artist, transforming her imaginative concepts into client logos and branding. She also writes and proofreads the associated copy and creates the layout for client brochures.
John creates perfectly color-balanced giclée prints: fine art reproductions of accomplished artists. He’s also the company’s digital imaging expert and web developer.
Travel is another passion that the two share. Their nationwide client base often affords them the opportunity to mix business with pleasure. “We just returned from the Grand Canyon,” Sarah says.
“And we have a shed in Maine,” John jokes. The couple retreats to their humble getaway during summer months.
Other passions include kayaking (for their first date, they went sea kayaking), biking, cooking (John is the chef), and fine wine. Sarah jokes that most of their fine wine comes from Sam’s Club. However, John reveals that the couple keeps a few special bottles in their makeshift wine cellar. One is from a vintage that they had sampled while traveling in Italy. John doesn’t plan to let this bottle collect too much dust. “You don’t want to die with a $100 bottle of wine in your cellar!” he stresses, laughing.
The Raleigh’s connection to the Newburyport community is important to them. John serves on the marketing communications committee for the Chamber of Commerce. For the last three years, Sarah has designed the Newburyport Guide Book. Together, the couple supports local nonprofit organizations.
In fact, the couple’s two assistants came from a nonprofit group close to their hearts.
Madeline and Ridley are two felines whom John and Sarah adopted from the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society.
Madeline, a Tortoiseshell, was sleeping on the job during this interview. Ridley however, a marble-gray tabby, was keeping John on his toes. The cat has trained John to balance a stuffed mouse on the stairway baluster—so that Ridley can then jump up and knock the toy to the floor.
Our interview ended with John successfully (and cheerfully) performing his part of the trick several times . . . in succession.
Kathleen Downey is the Features Editor for Newburyport Today. If you are a townie or a citizen who would like to be profiled (or to suggest someone to profile), or if you have an idea for a feature story, please email: Kathleen@Newburyport-Today.com.