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Small Business Saturday shines spotlight on local merchants
Shop small, shop local, shop Lewiston
By Joshua Maloni
Sure, there’s a nobility in shopping local and supporting your neighborhood merchants. Certainly, community and camaraderie can be found when patronizing a local restaurant, picking out gifts at the corner store, or participating in a themed event like the recent Trick-or-Treat Center Street.
In truth, we could sit here and espouse the philosophical benefits of next weekend’s Small Business Saturday – of skipping the national retailers and online marketplaces.
But it’s the holidays.
And someone’s got to put gifts under that tree (after they’re, gulp, wrapped, of course).
Sure, nobility is great. And championing hometown sellers – who wouldn’t want to do that?
Here’s the thing, however: Christmas is only a month away!
You may hear “shop small,” but, if we’re being honest, you’re really thinking QVC – not necessarily the famous TV sell-a-thon, but what it stands for: quality, value, convenience.
Thanks to the ad wizards, you may think QVC is only found on your digital devices or inside a Walmart or Target.
What if we told you that, if you really want quality, value and convenience – and not just cheap and easy – you won’t find it online, on the boulevard, or on channel 159.
QVC is right down the road – on Center Street.
•Lewiston merchants offer quality wares. They’ve painstakingly taken time to research the marketplace and find (or make) handcrafted, one-of-a-kind, won’t-break-when-you-open-the-box products.
•These high-end goods are sold for a reasonable price because, contrary to public belief, not everyone in the 14092 has deep pockets. On Small Business Saturday, many of these items are further discounted.
•Convenience comes, yes, in that the shopping district is walking distance away, but even more so when you can readily find the right gifts. Lewiston storeowners build a bond with customers. Oftentimes, they’ve picked out merchandise and have it on hand prior to a patron’s arrival. They’re on site to give feedback and make sure a dress is the right fit or a charm necklace has the proper settings. This results in fewer trips to return items (which, like fruitcake, is the holiday gift no one ever wants).
So, you could shop online next weekend, or visit a chain store, but here’s the thing: When you click “Add to cart,” your order won’t come with Sara Morreale.
Marleen Brown isn’t selling her wares on the Home Shopping Network.
And it’s highly unlikely you’ll find the guidance of Laura Mann Falsetti, Cheri Clark or the MacKenzies in aisle 4 of the box store.
Simply put: You won’t find their expertise anywhere else. Certainly not on a message board or from a robot responder.
These business owners are uniquely qualified to help you find affordable, unique gifts destined to be cherished for years to come.
Crazy Train Natural Apothecary
900 Center St., Lower
No, Marleen Brown didn’t name her store after an Ozzy Osbourne song.
“In studying nutritional medicine, and then finally studying herbalism, natural health remedies are a way for people to get away from pharmaceuticals,” Brown said. “And every time my husband and I would watch commercials, we would see the pharmaceutical drug, and then 9 million side effects. And we would both say, ‘Isn’t that just crazy?’ And so, the name Crazy Train – get off the crazy train – came.”
When she opened in the summer of 2018, Brown’s goal was to help her neighbors.
“I live in Lewiston, and I believe that you should serve your community,” she said. “And I studied natural remedies for years after my mom passed from ovarian cancer. It kind of was my side education. On top of being a full-time accountant.
“There’s illness in Lewiston. Unfortunately, we have an aging community and there’s a lot of illness. So, I saw the need.”
At first, people were a little skeptical.
“It was slow in the beginning, because people aren’t real familiar with herbalism. But everybody that comes in comes back,” Brown said. “So, it’s been growing slowly, but in a nice pace.”
She explained the difference in what she offers versus what one can find in a traditional pharmacy or health mart. Crazy Train offers “practitioner-grade vitamin supplement, meaning that they do not have the preservatives that are mandated in supplements traditionally sold” elsewhere.
“Those,” Brown continued, “because of the preservatives in them, by the time they travel through the GI tract, you actually have spent so much time breaking down the preservatives, that you only absorb 30% of the vitamin.”
Here, supplements are “95% absorbable,” Brown noted.
“When you take a vitamin, it should do something for you; you should notice it. And if you don’t, after 10 days, then it’s not the right vitamin for you. These you will notice,” she said.
Crazy Train has local artisan products, deodorants and all-natural, fluoride-free toothpaste.
“Your body doesn’t have to do anything to worry about processing toxins and using those,” Brown said. “But as a student of Western herbalism, I try to get everybody over to the apothecary side.”
She said, “Vitamins and supplements are single constituents of the plant. But if we go to medicinal herbs, you’re actually getting the benefit of the whole plant – and it’s easy to use, as long as you’re trained with some knowledge. The herbs I carry are safe for the general public. The herbalism classes that we teach, basically educate herb by herb, so people are fully aware of what they’re using. And that’s kind of the premise. My hope is to educate more than sell.”
To that end, teas and tinctures (think cough syrup) are available to customers upon their completion of a 60- or 90-minute class.
“They have to go the nine yards. They have to educate themselves. They have to take classes,” Brown said.
She cautioned, “Don’t rely on Google; anybody can write for Google. If you search a single subject on Google, you’re going to get conflicting information. The last place people should go for health remedies or health information is Google.
“Everybody is asked to check with their doctor before they start – any supplement or tea. Work with your doctor, see what he thinks first.”
Brown said, “There’s medicinal benefits to herbs. They’re medicinal plants. And learning those benefits is what we want to teach forward.
“If you made yourself, for instance, a cup of hibiscus tea, it’s a beautiful, lightly floral, citrusy flavor tea; but what you don’t know is you’re getting tons of antioxidants and tons of vitamin C. So that’s what we’re teaching.”
Crazy Train also has cannabidiol (better known as CBD).
“We only carry Charlotte’s Web,” Brown said. “I do have a CBD bowl of shame on the floor, because there is so much junk on the market. Oftentimes, I’ll get people coming in, and they’re like, ‘I’ve been taking this CBD for three months, and I haven’t noticed anything.’ And you look at the bottle, and it barely has any CBD, and it’s infused with medicinal herbs that have nothing to do with what their intended purpose is.”
She noted, “Before I brought CBD into the apothecary, I ran three endocannabinoid classes, so people could come in and learn: ‘What is CBD supposed to do in my body? What are we talking about here? And why didn’t anybody teach us this?’ And we still run that; usually every quarter we run an endocannabinoid class, because people should know; you should know everything that goes in your mouth – what it’s going to do.”
As she approaches her second year in business, Brown is seeing customers come back in better health.
“It makes me feel good that they kind of found a path that worked for them,” she said.