Ravenswood celebrates five years

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Ravenswood celebrates five years of herbal remedies

From treating her childhood asthma to helping college friends over their colds, Sara Thornton has used herbal remedies for a long time. Opening Ravenswood Natural Health in March 2010 seemed the next logical step. Jobless, like so many in the economic crash of 2008, Thornton combined her decades of herbal studies with her corporate experience in purchasing and inventory control and leaped into her first retail store. Stepping into a building with so much local history made her curious about who—and what—came before.

During the five years since opening her shop in the former Trumpet Vine building, Thornton researched the building’s history, even tracking down the original owner. She discovered a patchwork of long, successful businesses had built on and expanded the building for more than 60 years. Growing from one-room Knif’s Snack Bar in 1949 to the sit-down Top Hat Diner in 1952, the Knose family added a kitchen and living quarters. When the deTurks took over in 1964, they tore out the restaurant, added bedrooms and a porch, and began The Ox Yoke Shop, a square dance costume shop. They even had square dances on weekends in the parking lot through the 1970s. By the early 1980s, they sold their shop to friends in Granby, who fixed it up and rented it out. The Trumpet Vine opened in 1988 as a gift shop, soon outgrowing the small retail space out front and into the garden and barn out back. By 1998, Myra and Sandy owned the property and turned it into a popular destination. Just before the crash of 2008, they transformed their gift shop into a small tearoom, eventually adding smokehouse barbeque dinners. Unfortunately, the restaurant couldn’t survive the economic downturn and closed.

When Ravenswood Natural Health opened, it barely filled the original front room. Each year, she has expanded into one more room, until the shop has finally filled the building back into the old living quarters. Wander around, and find little archaeological treasures Thornton has left out between the shelves of vitamins, supplements, and herbals. A visitor can find a piece of the 1950s wallpaper, or the sunny yellow wallboard from The Top Hat Diner. While the history is great entertainment, the focus is on healthy, natural products. Thornton’s shelves are filled with national brands and small regional specialties. Science is the foundation she builds upon, choosing the products that have been studied and researched as much as possible. Thornton offers advice and suggestions to provide herbal alternatives to support a healthy lifestyle.

To expand her own knowledge, Thornton has enrolled in Dr. Tiearona Low Dog’s Foundations in Herbal Medicine 18–month, distance-learning program. With its focus on pharmacology and physiology, the class has already raised the quality of the advice she gives her customers and has deepened her confidence in the products her shop offers, Thornton feels. She should be complete by 2016, culminating with a four-day intensive taught by Dr. Low Dog at Medicine Lodge Ranch in New Mexico. Meanwhile, Ravenswood has joined the flow of history at 1606 Hopmeadow Street, just across the border in Simsbury.