Josh Kuhn, owner of Old Mr. Bailiwick’s Plant Based Remedies in Mount Vernon, donned a silver-colored vest and suit pants when he greeted me at his shop last Friday at noon. His bowler hat hung on the wall next to a towering stretch of shelves filled with dried plants behind the counter. Below it was an infusion of herbs hovering over a heated boiling flask. The low-lit room, decorated with wooden accents, masks and animal skulls, was even more striking than the bright red door which opened into the store. It is out of this space, previously vacant for roughly 30 years, that Kuhn operates as the store’s herbalist, which opened its doors at the end of last month.
Kuhn and his wife, Rebecca Wentworth-Kuhn, an executive assistant at the College, opened the shop as a result of their increased interest in herbalism. The two moved to Ohio from North Carolina nine years ago to pursue sustainable agriculture. Over the time, Bailiwick Farm became more and more focused on herbalism. After a while, the couple felt that they had gathered enough experience to start up a shop. “We want to be here for the community,” Kuhn said. “We want to serve as a hub for healers in the community, but we want to be a source for everyone to come and congregate and be able to learn from one another.”
Using a combination of traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western medicinal practices, the shop seeks to treat any illness or imbalance that customers might experience. Keeping with the turn-of-the-century apothecary aesthetic of the store, Kuhn has customers sign a logbook before they purchase any product. After the interview, I jotted down my name at the top of a fresh page using a dip pen and ink stand before purchasing an ounce of ground echinacea root to treat my case of the Kenyon Krud.
Although Kuhn does not specialize in treating any specific ailment, he emphasized that he pays attention on treating “the whole self, not just the symptoms.” This approach values the mind as well as the body. Kuhn and his wife conveyed this approach at the Cox Health and Counseling Center in 2018, when they hosted a “tea therapy” event to help students practice mindfulness.
In addition to selling ground roots and tea blends for boosting various body functions, Kuhn also offers various odds and ends, such as essential oils, incense burners and evil eye home decorations. Although Kuhn is not focused on the mythical side of herbalism, “You cannot…have pure science without the psycho-spiritual element,” he said. “It has to be there…If there’s no hope, then there’s no healing.”
The eclectic assortment of products available in the store, along with the equally unconventional atmosphere of the interior, reflects the shopkeeper’s passion for his trade. “It’s just who I am,” Kuhn said. That being said, Kuhn hopes to make customers feel welcome and comfortable as the business builds up momentum. “I like things a little, you know, on the unusual side,” he said, “but this is certainly not just a place for me. It’s a place for everyone.