Nelson’s Herbs still going strong

Published 3:36 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

Karen Nelson owns Nelson’s Herbs in Edwardsburg. (Argus photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

Karen Nelson owns Nelson’s Herbs in Edwardsburg. (Argus photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

When Karen Nelson, of Nelson’s Herbs, opened up shop on Dailey Road in Edwardsburg about 20 years ago in 1990, people told her she wouldn’t make it in business just by selling herbs.

But she did. And then some.

Nelson, a certified master herbalist, originally opened up her business selling home grown herbs. She’d gotten her start by working for and studying under an herbalist in Niles.

“A master herbalist is knowledge,” she explained. “It’s an extensive knowledge of herbs. What it is, is teaching people about herbs that will help with their physical condition and what won’t interact with their medications.”

Nelson can tell customers which whole leaf teas, some her own blend, others provided by the Iowa based co-op Frontier, will warm them up on a cold day, which ones could affect the blood pressure and which herbs are best for an aching body.

When she moved to Edwardsburg, she’d found a home with plenty of space in which to grow both her herbs and her business opportunities.

“When we moved here,” she said. “I decided I wanted to sell plants.”

Though the foundation of her success is built upon her herbs, Nelson has indeed expanded. She incorporated perennials and a wide selection of plants to her business. Her greenhouses hold a wondrous amount of varieties of herbs.

“I have 16 varieties of basil,” she said. “Most people don’t know there are 16 varieties of basil. And I have 30 varieties of lavender.”

She expanded her storefront as well, from a small space just off her home to a spacious throwback to the general store style, with a hardwood porch, red exterior and wide open wood planked interior.

Nelson’s Herbs carries everything from handmade gifts, bulk herbs and teas, locally made specialties like pumpkin butter, salsas and jams.

For years, out of a small space, she sold to local customers and those visiting the area.

But the business, like the herbs themselves, has been steadily growing.

Though she is not a certified organic grower, Nelson said she doesn’t use pesticides.

“People are looking, they’re finding out it’s easier on the economy to eat local,” she said.

Now, Nelson caters to a customer base made up of locals and visitors from Chicago, Indianapolis and Detroit.

“More and more people are learning about me,” she said.

Her passion for her business could be considered an attribute to her success as much a passion she said she has for her customers.

Nelson enjoys talking with customers who come into her shop on a regular basis or those discovering it for the first time. At the rear of the store is a small tea room, furnished with tables and chairs and a makeshift small tea and coffee bar.

It’s where customers can stop and sit, converse with each other or flip through the countless books Nelson has stocked and for sale.

And she’s reaching out beyond the boundaries of her own shop to keep in touch with the people who have kept her in business, entering into the world of social media with her own Facebook page.

“I love it,” Nelson said of her business. “I just love it.”

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