Above: Justin Adkins, co-proprietor of Wild Soul River, which opened on Cole Street this month; photo by Mei Craig.
Herbalists, Rebecca Guanzon and Justin Adkins, bring the powers and energies of spirituality, herbal medicines, crystals, tinctures, and tarot cards to their new retail shop, Wild Soul River, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Wild Soul River is an apothecary shop with a distinctly witchy vibe that specializes in herbal medicine and energy healing. The shop offers herbalism workshops, tarot readings, crystal books for people to read, as well as coffee and herbal teas to drink from. There isn’t another business-like Wild Soul River in Williamstown, which makes the shop stand out and adds more diversity and charisma to the shopping scene downtown.
Wild Soul River opened for business in May 2021 on 248 Cole Avenue. Before shop owners, Rebecca Guanzon and Justin Adkins, started their business in Williamstown, they met at Alleghany College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. With a shared love of plants and energy healing, the pair decided to open an apothecary store and relocate to Williamstown, where Justin used to live and work.
“I worked at Williams from 2007 to 2016 and then I moved away to Pennsylvania where I worked at Alleghany College and met my partner Rebecca, and we were trying to figure out what the next phase of our life was going to be and I loved this building and neighborhood and we have a friend base here, so we decided to go for it” says Justin.
The other owner of the store, Rebecca is a trained herbalist with over 20 years of experience and is a practitioner of multiple energetic healing modalities. She has used her herbal skills to help survivors of trauma and incorporate trauma informed care practices.
A herbalist is someone who uses plants for healing. They are not medical doctors, but still they do attempt to find the root cause of the illness by incorporating herbal supplements, such as, leaves, flowers, roots, salts and teas into their practices.
Medicinal herbs are nothing new. People have been using herbs for thousands of years. Herbs have been used to treat illnesses, moderate health, boost immunity, enhance moods and alertness, reduce stress, and possibly contain healing powers.
“People come and buy herbs in bulk for their own uses. We also make teas and tinctures and other herbal preparations with them. Tinctures are herbal preparations where the herbs are extracted into a liquid, so often with alcohol or apple cider vinegar” says Justin.
Once you step inside the shop, you’ll see a wide variety of jars containing all sorts of different herbs lined up on a shelf behind the counter, as well as crystals and candles on display. Customers can even on going on Wild Soul River’s website and pick out products ranging from jewelry, flower essences, ritual items, candles, smoke blends, and self-care and meditation books, etc.
According to Justin, in terms of most popular store item being bought, “Our cold and hot herbal teas and coffee has been really popular. Everything is kinda selling across the board. We are selling pride flags, progress pride flags and tarot decks which also have been popular” continued Justin.
Wild Soul River is not just an herbalist healing shop, but it’s also an abolitionist business dedicated to making reparations towards Native American and Black communities.
What may surprise a lot of people about Williamstown is that it used to be an ancestral land belonging to the indigenous tribe, Moh He Con Nee (Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians), but they were kicked off their land by white colonizers. Both Justin and Rebecca feel as a white people that they should reckon with the moral debts of our ancestors and donate 1% of their profit to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians and black farmers.
“Both of us identify as white, and the white people took over this land from the Stockbridge Mohicans, and also enslaved black people, and we believe that reparations need to happen at a systemic level and as a small company we should do our part as well says Justin.”
Like most new businesses, it is required by the state to have a handicap ramp installed outside shops and services to be more accessible to those in wheelchairs. A wheelchair ramp is expected to arrive by October. As of the moment, Wild Soul River is looking to raise $18,000 for the installation of a new ramp. Interested in donating, you can visit https://wildsoulriver.com/pages/gofundme for more information.
Mei Craig is a rising senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) majoring in English & Communications with double concentration in Literature and Journalism. At MCLA, Mei serves as an anchor and news reporter for MCLA’s student media outlet, Beacon Web News and as a staff writer for MCLA’s student publication, The Beacon, where covers events happening around campus and North Adams. Mei hopes to pursue a professional career in journalism and is excited to advance reporting skills this summer as writer for The Greylock Glass.