Smile Herb Shop, a cornerstone of the community
By Eva Sanchez
“If you can’t shop, smile as you go by,” reads the hand-painted sign outside Smile Herb Shop, an emporium of healthy living. The shop is located in a grand old home that used to house the first telephone exchange in the area.
“Customers who have come here for quite some time, and even the new ones, they understand that there’s a sense of community and belonging here. It’s just not your typical type of place,” said Emanda Thomas, one of Smile Herb’s floor managers.
A bulletin board right at the front door details the rich history of the building and the shop, which was founded by a woman known as Sweet Cicely, in the early 1970s. In 1975, Tom Wolfe stopped in, and over time, their friendship blossomed. Eventually, Sweet Cicely decided to sell Smile Herb to Tom and his wife, Linda.
Thomas says that customers come in all the time with their personal stories about coming to Smile Herb through the years. “They have stories about the staff, they have stories about the shop, they have stories about the garden, you know; they’ll tell you stories about like, ‘Oh, I’ve been coming since the 70’s.’ You know, ‘Tom helped me with this,’ or ‘I took this class.’”
Thomas applied to work at Smile in 2017, and though she wasn’t hired then, she contacted the shop again in 2019, when she was on the hunt for an internship. She was studying Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional practice rooted in Hinduism, and had a hunch that Smile would be a perfect fit. And Smile Herb responded to Thomas with, well, a smile. “They just welcomed me with open arms, you know, like, there was no concern about me being an intern, and so fresh and new,” she said.
Thomas was hired in August 2020, and she stepped into her current position shortly after joining the team.
Thomas observed first-hand how the pandemic impacted Smile’s customers, who weren’t able to enter the store for more than a year. “It was really creating a different type of relationship than what customers were used to, you know, the customers really missed coming in the store,” she said.
Smile Herb reopened its doors in June 2021. Thomas said that customers were excited to reconnect with the staff and browse the herbs. The shop strives to make herbs and healthy living alternatives broadly available to the community.
“[We work to make] herbalism accessible, in many ways,” said Thomas. “Oftentimes, when you go somewhere, you have to pay a big amount of money to get your answers and needs met, and here you can come, and we can give you so much support that goes beyond a lot of people’s expectations.”
Thomas underscored that Smile Herb’s products, classes and support aren’t a substitute for advice from a medical doctor, but anyone looking for assistance in their journey with herbalism will find it at Smile. “We are a space that can offer them what they’re looking for,” she said. “Customers have come, and they’ve shared their stories of overcoming all types of illnesses because of the help that they received here at Smile.”
Customers’ experience, and their enthusiasm for the shop, is a direct reflection of Tom and Linda’s dedication, along with that of their staff. Together, they offer decades’ worth of experience in herbalism — and they make a point of offering, with every sale, a smile.
To learn more about Smile Herb Shop, explore the store at 4908 Berwyn Rd. or online at smileherb.com.