Michelle Marino

BOLTON

OWNER, DRAKE APOTHECARY

HERBAL ENTHUSIAST, REIKI PRACTITIONER, TRADITION-PRESERVER

 

 

“I love this country, and I try to preserve it as much as I can. There’s been arrowheads found right next door to me right in the river valley, but I don’t think most people know about that. When we have all that knowledge, you have more respect for where you live. Happy 150th, Canada.”

 

So you’re… a witch?

Ha! My first location wasn’t even a real store; I rented the back of someone else’s. My dad had found me this really big old wooden desk, and I made everything out in the open, pots going, dried herbs hanging from the ceiling… and people would come in and be, like, are you a witch?  And I’d say no, I just make shampoo.

 

How did this happen?

I started making stuff for my daughter when she was on my hip. I know the exact time: she was in the bath and she could just sit up, and I was sitting beside the bathtub, I just happened to pick up a bottle… and there were so many ingredients on it that weren’t familiar to me. So I Googled them and was like, “This does what?” And when I did more research, I realized that there were chemicals in there that were proven to be cancer causing — just really awful stuff.

That started my journey.  At the kitchen counter, I would make her baby products and it just grew. I had women in the neighbourhood come knock on my door and say, I heard you could do this, and I’d invite them in for tea. It was never supposed to be a business.

I ended up taking a herbalist course in California, then I volunteered with a medicinal herbalist in Caledon. We’d go out and dig up burdock root. This woman actually taught me quite a bit.

 

That’s a pattern I’m seeing… lots of women teachers in your life.

My grandmother is an avid, plant-loving gardener. Even now she’s in her 80’s and we still go for walks, she points out plants to me and asks me if I know what they are, what they can be used for, how to make tinctures. I always had that interest, it was something I just did in my spare time: research plants.

What I didn’t know when I started the business was that I come from a line of herbalists in Italy. My aunt told me and I went, what?

 

Old wisdom.

Every grandmother, great grandmother, great aunt, they all know this, from any part of the world. The women had to know what grew in their area, when to harvest it, what parts of what plant had to be used. They prepared the tinctures, medicines and herbs for all year round. There wasn’t a Shopper’s Drug Mart on every corner. All I’m trying to do is learn some of the stuff that our ancestors have know since the beginning of time.

 

So it’s out there.

You just have to look for it, and be willing to listen and learn. For me it’s about talking to my grandmother and my great aunt, it’s about talking to the seniors in the area, it’s about going through my old books and looking and then experimenting.

There’s a 12,000 year heritage that is this land, it’s all the same plant life. And it’s all about experimenting: some things I do don’t work out and some things do. I don’t release a product unless I have made it and tried it and used it for about a year to two years.

 

How do you make them your own?

I experiment. I sit in my kitchen and experiment with different things, and do a lot of research.  Not typically online: I’ve been collecting antique books my whole life, and there is a lot of useful information. I’ve always had this feeling that everything around us is here for a reason.

 

Is Bolton an ideal place to be who you are now?

It made me who I am. I live right by the river, and I remember being 4 or 5 years old and saying, I’m going to the river, and I lived in the river in the woods.

I do the same with my daughter. We go and we play in the river, try to figure out what trees or plants or bushes are there, watch the fiddleheads come out… I try to instil that connection with her environment.

 

That connection finds its way into the products.

I think my shampoo and conditioner are probably the cleanest on the market. My influence for that was the river: I didn’t want to pour anything down the drain that was going to pollute it.

I even have products in Canadian national parks: I got my first park in Bruce Peninsula a few years ago, a bug spray. A big concern now is lakes and rivers. When people camp at national parks, they’ll wash their dishes and send dishwater into the lakes, and there’s a huge volume of harmful chemicals in that. So they’ve commissioned me to do a biodegradable natural dish soap!

 

You’re a proud Boltonite, and Canadian.

I love this country, I love where I live, and I try to preserve it as much as I can. There’s been arrowheads found right next door to me right in the river valley, but I don’t think most people know about that.  This area is steeped in history. When we have all that knowledge, you have more pride, more respect for where you live.

 

Connecting with women is a big theme for you.

I had actually started a women’s group on Castle, my old location, called the gathering, a space for women to meet that was non-judgmental, private, and where we could speak our truths.

 

It’s fun, too.

We have a lot of fun. We’ve had Lucy, a medium there for a Friday, girls-night kind of thing. She does a group reading, there’s a lot of laughter and a lot of cheers. It’s nice for women to go out and connect with each other.

If women in the community help each other, become connected, we can do a lot of wonderful things. We all have the same story.

 

It’s just having the courage to say it?

I think that women are taught not to talk about certain things, or to be ashamed about certain things. It really opens up your whole spirit when you hear someone else speaking the same words that you’re feeling inside and knowing that you’re not alone… and that it’s ok to talk about things.

 

Like we just did.