Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Safe in the Bower’s nest

Amherst’s own apothecary and gift shop

Lyndsey A. Ware

By Lyndsey A. Ware, Collegian Correspondent

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When University of Massachusetts junior Vincent Frano isn’t in class, he’s sharing his knowledge of nature at the Bower Studio in Pelham, Massachusetts. Frano and his partner, Isa Wang, own the apothecary and gift shop named after the bower bird, an Australian bird known for its intricate nests.

The repurposed house overlooking part of the Quabbin Reservoir is a refuge for many seeking alternative remedies to what stresses or troubles them.

According to the store website, the Bower Studio is a business that started from selling only soaps, but has recently expanded its products scope. Since the store’s opening in 2011, the business “has since evolved into illustrated products, prints, cards, and canvas posters with our original designs.”

Old blues tunes and the aroma of essential oils greet customers at the door. The well-organized selection of dried herbs in mason jars line the shelves behind the counter where Frano and Wang avidly await questions and purchases.

Frano, a horticulture student, started studying herbalism about five years ago.

“That’s what got me really interested in plants,” explained Frano.

When he began diving into herbal medicine, there were not as many people interested in the “power of plants” as there are today.

“Now, I feel that it has become more mainstream. A lot of people come in the store that may have just heard about using elderberry or something and want to learn more,” Frano said.

“Isa told me that sometimes when we’ve gone on hikes in the woods with friends…that just the fact that I am so interested in plants causes me to point them out. I just can’t help talking about them. I’m obsessed,” Frano said.

“He’s able to identify practical or medical uses of the plant,” said Wang, who studied fashion design and fine arts.

While considering the stress students endure during midterms and finals weeks, Frano offered a piece of advice:

“For headaches, it varies per individual…but [the plants] Feverfew, Meadowsweet and Willow Bark usually help,” he said.

Meadowsweet and Willow Bark act similar to Aspirin, but without damaging stomach effects.

“For hangovers, soothing herbs like Linden and Marshmallow Roots can do the trick…and for stress, milky oat tops, Tulsi, lemon balm, Hawthorn and Ashwagandha Roots will help,” Frano said.

As business owners, Frano and Wang are conscious of how businesses affect the environment. In addition to the storefront, they have created a line of seed cards people can plant after reading. According to the store website, Frano and Wang also host classes and workshops, such as tree medicine plant walks.

The owners also helped organize sustainable markets in New York City and continue to host hands-on workshops.

“Everyone has different values of what sustainability means. I think it is anything that makes an effort to make industry and business less damaging to the environment and the people involved,” Wang said.

There is something healthy for everyone at Bower Studio, a safe nest only 15 minutes from Amherst Center.

Lyndsey A. Ware can be reached at [email protected]

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