Evanston herb store advocates all-natural remedies

Ciara McCarthy/The Daily Northwestern

Joseph Vlad, the owner of Evanston's new Safari Natural Herbs and Tea, is 20 years old. He said that age provided several obstacles to starting a business, but that "you can't judge a book by its cover."

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter
October 29, 2012 •

A 20-year-old Evanston resident recently opened his own herb and tea store in downtown Evanston, bringing a new take on centuries-old herbal remedies to create a modern-day apothecary.

Safari Natural Herbs and Tea, 1630 Orrington Ave., opened Oct. 12 after just a few months of planning by owner and operator Joseph Vlad.

The store is lined with a variety of herbs, teas and pills, all created with natural ingredients to provide alternative treatments to common medical ailments. Vlad envisions the store to serve as both a “natural Walgreens” as well as a community center that can educate people about the advantages of traditional medicines.

Vlad personally uses herbal medicines exclusively and said he does not rely on traditional pharmaceuticals when ill. He has used all-natural medicines since the age of 16, when he first began working at a health foods store in Florida. In this environment, Vlad not only gained a knowledge of the health foods business, but also found a mentor in his boss.

“Not only did he treat me as his worker, but in some ways he was more of a father to me,” he said. “He taught me how to take care of myself.”

Vlad spend about two and a half years working at this store and learning the business, after which he moved to Evanston about a year ago. He initially worked as a salesman in Skokie before meeting his current business partner and investor, Ron Tan, at the gym. Vlad described his business idea of opening an herb and tea shop, Tan found the idea interesting and unique and the two partnered up.

“I was kind of surprised that someone was investing in me at my age, which was crazy,” he said. Vlad, currently 20, met Tan when he was 19.

Although Vlad’s age has posed obstacles to becoming an entrepreneur, he said he has found his maturity and work ethic do not reflect his actual age.

“Some people say that I act 10 years older than I actually am,” he said.

Vlad envisions Safari as a place for the health-minded of the Evanston community to come together. He said he hopes to inform people about the benefits of a diet that includes herbs.

“I want people to know what herbs are, how they can help you, what they can do for you,” he said.

To accomplish this, the store will host a series of workshops, which Vlad hopes will occur bimonthly. Carla Eason, a massage therapist in Evanston, is scheduled to speak at the first forum Nov. 11. She said she will discuss natural ways to combat stress. She will also offer free chair massages to those in attendance at the forum.

Eason has been using herbal products for over 20 years, but said that Evanston has lacked a store with a wide variety of herbs until Safari arrived on the scene.

Vlad said he was excited for the future of the store and of the Evanston community and was confident in his ability to keep afloat despite his youth.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” he said. “You can’t judge this store or me; I’m 20 years old and I’m operating this by myself.”

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