This month we’re writing with purpose. We’re channeling the principles of tarot card readings (more on this later) and connecting with our “why” when it comes to the blog. We aim to highlight places, happenings, and stories that bring people together to share the experience of Jim Thorpe. Moreover we aim to unveil the unique and special narratives that make up our community. This month, we head inside “Habitual”. The herbal skincare, tea, and spiritual tool store lives on Broadway because two women came together in the wake of tragedy, and bet on their dreams. Skin care professional and herbalist Caitlin Marks and her spiritually inclined sister came to downtown Jim Thorpe with a bigger “why” and we’re proud to bring you their story.
For Marks and sister Ashley Kelly, it feels like a little bit of divinity was at play when we reached out to feature them during the month of May. The sisters opened the business in honor of their mom, Colleen Kelly, who tragically passed away of brain cancer in 2018. Not only is May when we observe Mother’s Day, it’s brain cancer awareness month. Colleen also celebrated her birthday in May. It’s a special time in the store; one that symbolizes living in the present, and gratitude for the chance to share things loved by their mother. From all of us at Best of Jim Thorpe, we’d like to dedicate this blog post to Colleen.
“After she passed, we realized tomorrow isn’t promised,” says Marks, who had contemplated making the switch from employee to entrepreneur long before March 2019, when the shop opened. The space at 97 Broadway came up for sale, and their father stepped in to
help them close the deal.
The girls joined forces in the wake of tragedy to bring people the joys of their own self care practices. At a time they needed direction and uplifting, they chose to share self care tune-up tips with others.
“My mom loved everything I made. I wanted to share these things with other people.” And just like that Habitual was born.
Here, they promote “herbal rituals for everyday life”. Everything from the diaper balm, to the specialty incense sticks are infused with herbs. Pretty much anything homemade, or scented has a botanical background. Marks has a background in professional skin care working in MedSpas, resorts, and salons, but she also wears the hat of “herbalist”. She got her official certification after years of making skincare products and toiletries as a hobby, and realizing she wanted to maximize their effects naturally.
“Some herbs are really good for your skin and can be used directly on the skin. Others are too acidic, or harmful for something topical. They have more benefits if ingested in something like tea.”
Marks hand-makes the entire skin care line, hair care products, and all of the loose leaf teas in their dedicated tea room (they even serve hot tea to go!).
Her biggest sellers are shampoo and conditioner “bars” that look, and feel like molded soap. They’re carry-on friendly for frequent flyers, made primarily from natural oils, and according to Marks, they last significantly longer than a bottle of shampoo.
“It took me a year or two to get the recipe and ratios just right. I couldn’t find a good recipe for them [...] Now I can’t keep them stocked.” Marks spends between 8 and 12 hours a week standing by her stove, stirring double boilers of fats, oils, and herbs, concocting her shampoo blends, and pouring them into molds. “The whole process for a batch takes 4 days, so I start a batch every other day”. It’s a lot of work for 40 bars of shampoo, but they're a staple in Mark’s own hygiene routine–one she says she has no plans of changing.
Ashley Kelly moved to JT for the sole purpose of co-founding Habitual. Kelly curates the entire collection of spiritual tools. Coming from Brooklyn, her sister says she brought with her edge, style, and a balance of vigor and zen. “She’s really spiritual, but also really knows what's trendy and what’s up and coming”. At Habitual, you’ll find elaborate decks of “Tarot” cards. The ornate plastic, and card stock decks are used to give players direction. The ancient tradition of tarot card drawing originated in Italy. It's intended to guide users through both major life happenings, and basic day to day life. You’ll also find herbal smoke bundles intended to use like incense. Sage is the most popular, according to the co-owners, which cleanses negative energy and promotes confidence.
“We wanted to bring together the things we love,” says Marks.
Although their herbal infusions are used for vastly different purposes, they’ve created a store where you can truly build an a la carte me-time routine. Thus, the name “Habitual”. Despite offering everything from loose leaf teas to water bottles filled with crystals, everything sold here is geared toward living well. It’s about being intentional, and building habits that nourish oneself. Be it mind, body or soul, all things sold at 97 Broadway can be added to that wellness regimen. They say habits die hard right? Here, that's a good thing. When customers purchase a product Marks says they’re often repeat customers.
“They get used to the quality of the products. When you like what you’re using you’ll do whatever you need to get it […] we have tourists and visitors who order stuff for shipping, and people who regularly drive from [about an hour away]”
The winter months can be tough for retail shops in one of America's favorite places to see foliage, but it sounds like these products are well loved habits for clients local, far, and wide.
“I love creating a welcoming space in our store. If people feel welcomed, they’re going to have a good experience” said Marks “And I think our knowledge about the products is really important to customers.”
Above the shop, Marks and Kelly operate Kelly Suites, which they keep stocked full of their herbal novelties. Marks says her background working in resort spas made it a no-brainer to continue operating the boutique hotel run by the previous owners. If you’ve stepped inside the minimalist chic retail space, and smelled the botanical bliss in their shop, you can probably imagine a stay here. It’s lodging with your regularly scheduled well being in mind.
For two women who can appreciate the power of being intentional with your time, and your life, creating careers around wellness means everything. Sharing these products, and knowledge is medicine for the soul.
It’s never a bad time to do something for yourself but, it IS may after all. To honor their Mom, the sisters currently have a fundraiser to support brain cancer research. Marks is making special soap bars with 100% of profits going to the National Brain Tumor Society. They’re naturally infused with herbs and oils to mimic Philosophy's “Amazing Grace” – the perfume Colleen wore. Their aesthetic design is equally special. “We were looking for photos for her funeral, and we found these photos of her in a sunflower field. We’d never seen them before, and I mean, she just looked so beautiful” said Marks.
“She was cremated, and wanted a really nice collection of photos of her service, so that’s how I want to remember her”. The soap bars are molded, and dyed to look like sunflowers. Patrons can also donate directly to the fund. Last year, Marks says they raised over $800.
The sisters say she’s there in the store with them everyday in spirit, and joke that if she were there in person they’d have nothing left. “She’d buy it all,” laughs Marks. “She’d be so proud”.
If you need a reminder about shopping small, and why it’s important, this is it. There are places like Habitual, which are founded on a special story; on the ideas that life is short and chances ought to be taken. It’s your reminder that life is short, and there are people to make proud.