Submitted by guest blogger Caitlin Kelly
It seems like everyone in the Adirondacks knows Jen Jubin. And if you don’t know her, you should! Jen grew up here and went to college in Potsdam, a little northwest of the Adirondacks. She started her own business, Forever Wild Beverage Co., while also juggling work at her family’s business, Cascade XC Ski Center.
During the wintertime, Jen is easily recognized—offering a bright and warm smile, with her curly brown hair up; a vest and puffy skirt with base layers underneath, because she was probably out skiing or doing something outside before any of us were awake. And she’s everywhere—organizing community events such as Full Moon Parties and Farm Dinners at Cascade, backcountry skiing in the High Peaks, helping serve beer at the Ausable Brewing Company in Keeseville, and often skinning up Whiteface during the early hours of the morning, soaking in the sunshine and views of her magnificent home. And now she’s handing out tea, baked goods, and other tasty treats at her new store Bliss & Vinegar in downtown Lake Placid. I caught up with her to chat about the store and her love for the Adirondacks.
1. Where does the name come from?
It's a play on "piss and vinegar." My products are vinegar based, and their creation is my bliss.
2. What kind of shop/space would you call B&V?
Bliss and Vinegar is an herbal cafe and apothecary. We offer a locally sourced, farm brunch menu and craft our own sourdough bread. We sell hundreds of bulk herbs, teas, and herbal lattes. In collaboration with staff herbalist Chani Greiner we offer weekly herbalism classes (on Thursday nights), consultations, and are excited to start advocacy work including community clinics as a new chapter under Herbalism Without Borders. The full licensed kitchen is also available for rent and product development.
3. Briefly explain the process of buying, renovating, and opening your store. Has this always been a dream for you?
When I started my herbal products business five years ago, I was really careful to create something that I could take with me anywhere. Settling into the idea that this was home for a while and getting to work on building something of my own has been really, really good for me. I'd say the concept of a community space has always been a dream, but I only just committed to making it a Lake Placid thing a few years ago. I LOVED renovating the space and learning so much about construction. I'm a projects person and am trying to contain myself from jumping into another one because there's still so much work to be finished at the store. I was also really lucky to have lots of help from friends and family, especially Erik Schue, without whose help there would be no BV!
4. You went to school at Clarkson. What did you study there and how did it contribute to what you're doing now?
I studied political science and business. My college studies, and a semester in Washington D.C. studying transforming communities particularly informed my interest in local, economic development. I feel like I was always taking what I was learning and trying to apply it to the rural communities I was familiar with in the Adirondacks. I graduated and took a dream job working for a local rural development nonprofit, ANCA (the Adirondack North Country Association) in Saranac Lake. Working there further solidified my entrepreneurial aspirations. For me, owning a business is political. It's how I use my voice and interact with my community.
5. What influenced you to stay in the Adirondacks, rather than move west or somewhere else?
I wanted to help my family run our small business, Cascade Ski Center, but I was also re-inspired by the Adirondacks and the unique potential to work on strengthening communities that lived in balance with the ecosystem. The more I became impassioned about human scale development and promoting local economies, the more I understood that my home was the perfect laboratory. My decision to commit to a brick-and-mortar was a result of traveling more recently and realizing again and again how truly special the Adirondacks are.
6. What are your favorite parts about the Adirondacks? Why do you live here?
I love that the Blue Line and (Adirondack) Park Agency were created to protect wilderness. I love the grit. The people. The small communities. The politics. It's really the wild character that runs through it all. It's simply unreal that I can ski from town to town, jump in crystal clear rivers, hike to the highest remote waterbodies, and see the moon rise and fall behind a thousand different colors and mountaintops. I feel so lucky to call the Adirondacks home!
7. What are you passionate about?
See questions 5 and 6! I like the idea of re-framing passion to a daily concept; all the little devotions to following your bliss at present. Serving a hand-blended tea to a gracious stranger, skiing through windswept powder as the sun rises, baking bread with my mom every Wednesday, and bringing my dad his skim milk every other morning. The little things are the big things.
8. How is the store doing? How long has it been open?
It's going really well! The community support has been amazing and I can't thank everyone who has come in enough. Every day I'm gifted with an experience that affirms what I'm trying to do: providing nourishment to friends, community, and strangers. Working with an amazing team of strong women. Talking to people about sourdough, kombucha, gut health, and herbs. Learning together. Crying at the level of vulnerability offered up at the writer's open mic we host with the Adirondack Center for Creative Writing. I feel like the store is my big hug to the community and I feel very hugged back.
9. What do you see for the future and progression of your store?
The store is evolving every week! I'm not a very static or patient person, but I am working very hard on consistency. Future developments that have me excited are promoting the share-use kitchen, starting a place-based residency with onsite housing above the store, and potentially moving toward a co-operative ownership structure.