ELLSWORTH — Running an apothecary isn’t what Jennifer May thought she would be doing with her life.
“I didn’t know anything about holistic healing,” says May. “I ate cheese out of a can,” she adds, sunk into a soft chair in her shop, Sage Moon Apothecary, on Main Street on a sunny afternoon surrounded by jars of golden milk and herbs.
May grew up in California, earned a degree in early childhood education and development and worked in bookstores and taught preschool. Living near Silicon Valley, the mother of five eventually taught herself to code and landed a job working for AOL and Netscape, writing html.
“Everyone else was playing foosball,” says May, who felt unfulfilled working in technology. “There was never a sense of completion. As soon as we finished a project, it was obsolete.”
May fell into homeopathy after developing an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Doctors told her she would have to be on medication for the rest of her life to deal with the migraines, food allergies, joint pains, depression and other symptoms that can accompany the condition.
May began looking for an alternative solution. She eventually found a mixture of homeopathic remedies that helped heal her thyroid and alleviate her symptoms.
“Insurance and medications are expensive,” May says. “This is more affordable, and can treat not only symptoms but the underlying emotional piece.”
Her illness was diagnosed 20 years ago, and after her first foray into herbal medicine, May never looked back.
She attended homeopathic college, studying with nationally recognized practitioner David Little and eventually learned Reiki, the Japanese healing technique, and “energy healing,” which shares roots with Reiki but “is more targeted,” says May. She opened an online apothecary business in 2015 with $300 and three products, growing her business to between $5,000 and $10,000 in sales each month. While she’d thought about a shop, it seemed far down the road.
“This,” says May, referring to the brick-and-mortar location on Main Street, “wasn’t in my plans for many years.”
May hadn’t saved any money or planned for the venture, but when the previous tenant moved out and offered her several months of the lease for whatever she could afford to pay, May acquiesced. A GoFundMe campaign and donations helped outfit the space, which opened last month. She brought in several partner artists and practitioners — a doula, a massage therapist, a jeweler and a soap maker, among others — who pay a fee to sell their items or services in the shop alongside May’s herbs and tinctures. Fogtown Brewing Co. is selling her herbal sodas, says May, and she is slowly learning how to manage a business.
May says she knows some people may be skeptical of herbal medicine, but says she is happy to explain the science behind each herb and tincture.
“Right now I’m trying to figure out how to run a shop,” she says. May plans to extend the lease when it’s up, and evaluate her business model then. But things are working out alright so far, she says, and business is picking up.
You can find May at her shop at 79 Main St. on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sage Moon Apothecary is also online at www.facebook.com/sagemoonapothecarymaine and sagemoonapothecary.net.