Last month I had the pleasure of attending a launch party for the Wandering Apothecary, the chic new addition to Taos’ Wanderer boutique. I got a beautiful sprawling Henna tattoo. I danced through the store from each enticingly-set-up alcove to the next; senses tingling as I ran fingers along what could be the hem of my new favorite skirt! I drank bubbles, laughed with friends, tried on sparkling stones dangling from hand-hewn leather. I reveled in samples of lip tint, and fluffy whipped body creams and balms. I had one hearty spritz of Plantfolk Apothecary’s Dream Catcher flower essence that took me so deep into the dreamscape I met a mystical sage rhinoceros. However, I digress…
Wanderer is a women’s boutique and apothecary located on the main drag right in the center of town across the street and just south of the Taos Inn. Have you been? At the launch party for the new apothecary space, which is housed in the front of the store, I met the owner, Ashley Arabian. I had seen her out and about around town before. We had spoken causally, but now my curiosity was piqued.
On its website, Wanderer introduces itself as a women’s boutique in the high desert mountains, featuring pretty things for lovers of the open road. While overtly simple, for me there’s a resonance to that statement that offers a lot more to unpack. A party afloat with merriment didn’t feel like the ideal setting for an intimate conversation about philosophy and why we as humans do what we do. Why do we create beautiful offerings and spaces that make us want to feel joy? Because I just had to know, I caught up with Ashley over email afterwards, to ask her a couple of questions about the Why behind her Wanderer.
In a nutshell tell me more about yourself. Where do you come from (literally and figuratively)? How did you end up in Taos? Where did you live before this? Where do you call home?
I’m originally from the California Bay Area, but I’ve lived in a handful of cities throughout my twenties. Taos made the biggest impression on me for the short time I lived here about five years ago. Last year I decided to revisit it without any intention of living here, and I came back here every month after that initial visit. I couldn’t stop coming here because it centered me, made me feel good about being a small person in a big world because the community here is so strong. I was bouncing back and forth between San Francisco and Taos, and when the shop space opened up, I said screw it. San Francisco lost its soul anyway, so I packed it all up and came here. This is home.
Why Wanderer? Everything in the boutique feels like it has an uplifting quality to it. What’s your passion behind your business?
Wanderer comes from my need to put a positive image on being [a wanderer] myself. I used to get a lot of crap from people about how I move around a lot, I bounce around on my jobs and passions, and struggle with routine/stability. I think this struggle reflects passion, zest for life, intellectual curiosity, and a love for the open road. It takes a lot of courage to refuse career stability so you can quench your thirst for travel and discovery. It’s not an easy life, but it is fulfilling in its own right. I think the people of Taos understand that, and we are all wanderers here. This is why I feel a sense of belonging here, and why I chose to call this brand Wanderer.
Wanderer has always carried a small selection of natural body care products. When I ordered them, I couldn’t believe the beautiful and wide selection of product creative people from all over were putting out. I wanted to bring in more of it, so I filtered The Wandering Apothecary into the brand.
Eventually, I want this brand to grow and become its own space so we can start hosting apothecaries, herbalists, foragers, beekeepers, etc from all over as a sort of residency in the shop. I’d like them to give workshops to the community, because we have such a rich curiosity of these things in Taos already. And who knows? Maybe its own herb garden too!
What’s your favorite thing about Taos?
The community for making me feel a part of something special and the mountain for keeping me from feeling alone.
Yep. Unpacking accomplished.
The experience I had at the Wandering Apothecary launch party wasn’t just about the product. It wasn’t even about the party aspect of community gathered in celebration of the success of one of our own. I left with something more personal. I took home a remembered inspiration behind my own need to wander. The talking rhinoceros was just extra!
You can visit Wanderer downtown at 110 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte #1. They’re open every day but Tuesday; weekdays 11-6 p.m., Saturday 10-6 p.m. and Sunday 12-6 p.m. You can also find them on the web and shop online anytime at wanderertaos.com.
All photos courtesy of Bonnie Zylka – Fleur De Lis Arts