It’s easy to like Nic Weinstein immediately.

I first met him via email, then in person when I stopped into his Temescal Alley shop this past week to pay a visit. Wearing an easy smile and a patterned shirt buttoned all the way to the top, he pulled up a chair for me and apologized for the state of his shop.

The shop in question is not yet open for business – so all things considered, it was a pretty impressive state of affairs. The small space was aglow with natural sunlight cascading in from two ceiling skylights. A rich auburn wooden countertop seemed to invite reverent touch, while half-built shelving hinted at the orderly displays to come.

The future orderly displays in question sat in large boxes on the floor, giving off a pleasantly sweet, earthy aroma. While I surveyed the scene, Weinstein pointed out a seam in the back wall of the shop and told me that the shop space had once been a horse stable; the seam in the cement marked the dividing wall between two stalls.

“I feel so lucky to have found a space where there were animals living here,” Weinstein, 33, said.

It seemed a fittingly naturalistic history for Weinstein’s shop, which will open its doors on March 2 as Homestead Apothecary, a storefront and community gathering space.

If you look up the word “apothecary,” most sources will tell you that it’s a synonym for pharmacy. Since the advent of Western pharmaceuticals, however, a modern-day apothecary might instead be described as the place one would have visited for remedies before the existence of pharmaceuticals.

Weinstein’s shop will carry a wide array of medicinal herbs, teas, tinctures (generally defined as the alcoholic extract of plants, made with ethanol) and other homeopathic remedies. More than just a shop, however, Homestead Apothecary also will serve as a community hub for all things herbal and homeopathic. A slated tentative lineup of donation-based workshops cover topics like medicinal herb-based beers and wine, growing a medicinal home garden, and flower and gem essences.

Weinstein also is in the process of inviting practicing local herbalists to use the space as an opportunity to sell their medicines and wares on consignment and to expand their offerings to a larger client base. Weinstein envisions having dozens of tinctures on hand at the shop so that practicing herbalists can send their clients to Homestead Apothecary to have their recipes filled.

“That way, all of the herbalists working in this community don’t have to spend so much money and time making or purchasing the tinctures that they need to make formulas for their clients,” Weinstein explained.

I should mention that all of this – the entirety of the Homestead Apothecary project – all happened over the span of the past five weeks.

Five weeks ago, Homestead Apothecary did not exist. It has been only over the past month-plus-change that Weinstein ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise $5,000, secured the physical space, signed the lease, furnished and painted the shop, created business cards and signage, began connecting with local herbalists, stocked the shelves, organized the grand opening and got the word out.

Ironically, though the actual manifestation of the apothecary has happened head-spinningly quickly, the journey to the apothecary’s grand opening unfolded over many years. Weinstein went to school for Library Sciences with an emphasis in archiving; he considers herbal medicine and archiving to be his two big passions.

Originally from Los Angeles, he lived in San Francisco for eight years, then moved to the woods of Western Massachusetts a few years ago “for love.” He was planning to work at a typewriter repair shop, but when that fell through, he started working instead with a couple of farms and became certified as a community herbalist through Thyme Herbal. He germinated a community supported medicine program – similar to a community supported agriculture program, but specifically for medicinal herbs – and interned with a local apothecary.

Then his cat started experiencing health problems. Over the course of treatment, his cat was given a rabies vaccine – and though she recovered, she completely deteriorated with different symptoms two months later. Weinstein said that pet specialists pointed to the probability of a grave condition called FIP. While seeking help with making his cat more comfortable, Weinstein heard about a homeopathic vet who happened to have been studying the link between FIP and the rabies vaccine for decades. The homeopathic vet shipped Weinstein an antidote that worked.

“That really got me thinking,” Weinstein said. “This homeopathic vet is saving [my cat], and the Western vet is telling me that we’re going to have to put her to sleep. So, from ’98 percent fine’ to ‘dead,’ that’s a very huge difference. So that’s when I was like, ‘OK, I think I need to start taking more courses and looking into this.’”

And then Weinstein himself got really sick. For four months, he was bedridden. Western doctors weren’t able to diagnose him. A naturopathic doctor told him that it was “adrenal fatigue,” a possible precursor to chronic fatigue syndrome. His sleep cycle was reversed so that he was most awake at night and sleepwalking through his day, and he became so chronically under-slept that he began forgetting basic vocabulary. Weinstein said that it was herbal remedies that pulled him through the worst of the condition.

“I didn’t have any energy, so I had to make really decisive moves around what I wanted to do with my time and energy,” Weinstein said. “I built a huge garden plot in my backyard and walking around barefoot in the soil and being out in the sun was giving a tremendous amount back to me. I cut things out of my life that really weren’t feeding me at all – people or habits in my life. The way I’ve generated a lot of energy for the shop is that I don’t have a lot of the superfluous stuff that we keep in our lives that take from us but don’t give us anything back.”

According to Weinstein, the process of opening a brick and mortar apothecary, far from energy draining, has been joyous and easy. The storefront essentially fell into his lap; he happened to meet Suzanne, the owner of Temescal Alley’s Interface Gallery, who at the time was planning to expand her gallery into the small vacant space next door. Suzanne changed her mind when she met Weinstein and instead told the alley’s landlord that she should rent the space to Weinstein. The community-like group of proprietors of Temescal Alley’s shops – which include a traditional barbershop, a horticulturalist and a midcentury furniture boutique– agreed that Weinstein and his apothecary were just what the alley needed.

Ultimately, Weinstein’s interest is in cultivating a sense of empowerment and well-being in the Oakland community through his apothecary – to help bring back the idea of herbal medicine as people’s medicine, used the world over and throughout human history as people’s primary means of healing themselves and their families.

“I’m not really fond of capitalism,” Weinstein said. “I tried to start this shop as a collective, but it wasn’t right. I was pushing something that was supposed to be my contribution to the community and trying to make it community-based in the space where it was supposed to be just my contribution. So now this is my contribution.”

 

Homestead Apothecary

Where: 486 49th St. in Temescal Alley, Oakland
Phone: (510) 495-6549
More info: homesteadapothecary.com

Homestead Apothecary’s grand opening party is from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, in Temescal Alley. Stay tuned on Homestead Apothecary’s Facebook page for more details.

If you are a local herbalist and are interested in working with Homestead Apothecary to sell herbal products and remedies, lead workshops or partner in any other way, contact Nic at homesteadapothecary@gmail.com.

 

 

Oakland Social is a weekly arts and culture column devoted to upcoming events, new places, and narratives about going out in Oakland. Have ideas for what to cover? Contact goingout@oaklandlocal.com.

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