By Chelsea Rose Moore | Photos by Ryan Moore
While apothecaries have existed for thousands of years, it is often rare to see one. The Paris Apothecary seamlessly blends together the old and the new. Opened in February, it serves as a resource for visitors to find herbal products, ask questions about herbal remedies, and learn about ways to use plants in their everyday lives.
Before it was an apothecary, the building was a general store for over 200 years and then served as storage for the next-door Ashby Inn & Restaurant. Owner Susan Leopold kept the original flooring in the store and oversaw the renovations. She was particular about the way the renovations were done, as she wanted to preserve the heart and soul of the structure.
She discovered a diary from the Civil War about a young woman who lived near Paris and often walked to the general store. “How incredible! How many people have walked on these floors?”
Listed on the wall of the shop are the names of significant people in botanical and herbal history, from pharmacists to herbalists to doctors. One of Leopold’s goals is to educate visitors and spark conversations about herbal medicine.
“This store is a way for me to bring awareness to the movement of where our plants come from and how they’re used in herbal medicine,”
“The store is the venue for conversations that need to happen,” she said. “We want people to come in here and think, ‘What does herbal medicine mean? How do we cultivate an herbal renaissance in our area?’ We are so disconnected. Most people probably couldn’t name 10 medicinal plants.”
Leopold believes her store can help draw awareness. For her, the shop is a tool to highlight people doing “really incredible things with plants.”
“This store is a way for me to bring awareness to the movement of where our plants come from and how they’re used in herbal medicine,” said Leopold. “I really see the herbal industry where the food industry was 20 years ago. What we’re about to witness is an awakening for herbal products.”
Leopold has a diverse background. With a Ph.D. in ethnobotany, Leopold has a passion for plants that began as a child. She is the executive director of United Plant Savers and director of the Sacred Seeds Sanctuary Network. She wrote “Isabella’s Peppermint Flowers,” a children’s book designed to teach children about Virginia’s botanical history.
Previously, she worked as a rare botanical book librarian at the Oak Spring Garden Library, where she specialized in digitizing rare herbals and botanical travel manuscripts. Her farm, the Indian Pipe Botanical Sanctuary, is where she and her three children call home.
To honor its general store roots, Leopold sources local products and sells them in the apothecary as well. She is picky about the products she sources, and most products are sourced from friends and acquaintances. The shop also offers local beers, wines and ciders.
She is looking to implement a modified lunch menu from the Ashby Inn. To accommodate the menu, she will be adding tables outside.
Visitors can purchase wine by the glass or opt for one of the Apothecary’s fizzy shrub drinks, sparkling water combined with organic elderberry syrup from Leopold’s farm and/or a shrub flavor of their choice.
Leopold met the shop’s manager, Christine Harris, a few years ago. Harris and her boyfriend live on Leopold’s farm, where she helps take care of the farm when she is not at the shop.
Harris has a background in biology and a passion for plants. She coordinates the shop’s events, offering presentations by local herbalists, classes and folk concerts.
This summer, they will be offering regular events, including “Banjos and Botanicals,” an event that brings Appalachian music and herbs together. On their calendar for the summer is a class on “The Art of Fermentation,” a workshop on “Fungi: Ecology, Identification and Foraging,” and a permaculture design certification course.
Coming up is their Spring Celebration: Friday, May 12, from 4-8 p.m. Visitors can enjoy live jazz music, purchase fresh produce, herbs and organic seedlings, and participate in a chocolate tasting from Immortal Mountain chocolate from Front Royal, Virginia. Local soap maker Black Apron Soap will be selling soaps, perfumes and body butters. The shop is dog-friendly. ML
Open Friday and Saturday 11am. – 6pm. Sunday 11am. – 4pm.
692 Federal St., Paris, VA 20130
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