MIDDLEBURY — As the owner-operator of Middlebury’s Pro Skin Studio, Jenn Buker has specialized in helping people care for the exterior of their bodies.
Beginning next month, she’ll add services and products designed to make people feel good inside and out.
Buker is in the process of remodeling her 111 Maple St. studio into “11th Hour Botanicals,” a business that will, among other things, offer a variety of CBD-infused salves, drops, coffees and smokable flowers, along with tinctures, massage oils, teas and Rasa beverages.
Cannabidiol — most commonly known as CBD — is derived from cannabis (hemp) but doesn’t contain more than 0.3% of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that produces a high. It’s increasingly used to treat anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain.
Buker, a cancer survivor, has used it for years. She currently lives with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a hypermobility ailment that leads to loose joints and muscle aches. Buker said CBD use — in conjunction with a diet free of sugar and grains — has allowed her to deal with the pain without using prescription painkillers.
And one doesn’t have to have an ailment in order to benefit from CBD, according to Buker.
“It allows your nervous and circulatory systems to work better, your bones and muscles to be healthier,” she said.
Buker wants to share her experience with others, and that’s how she got the idea of expanding Pro Skin Studio into what she described as a “spa-fé” — a combination of a spa and a café. Her range of CBD products and drinks will initially be available for takeout, but plans call for seating for onsite beverage consumption once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“I call it the ‘pandemic pivot,’” Buker joked of her business makeover.
Indeed, the pandemic was a big part of the pivot. Buker suspended many of her spa activities when the coronavirus made inroads in Vermont back in March. She continues to provide some one-on-one services — mostly waxing — with face coverings for her and her clients.
She needed to find new revenue sources.
“As much as I think I can pay my bills with waxing, I can’t,” she said. “So this is a way for me to have a safe business during a pandemic that I think will bring a lot to my current business. And I think my current business brings a lot to this new business. It seems like a really good melding of two wellness ideas into this spa-fé concept.”
Buker will maintain roughly one-third of her 1,000-square-foot spot in the Marble Works for spa activities, with the balance devoted to CBD products and coffee. Interior renovations will include opening the space to be a more inviting coffee shop experience. She’ll maintain a spa room in the back.
She initially toyed with the idea of seeking a new, downtown storefront for 11th Hour Botanicals, but decided to stay put. The Marble Works space has served her well and she wasn’t eager to leave it.
“It made me sad to think about losing all of that sweat equity and financial equity in making a move,” Buker said. “I think with some careful marketing, this can be a big success. This location is so peaceful and has tons of parking, I have fabulous neighbors, the landlord has been great.”
Buker believes her spa-fé will become a popular destination for those seeking alternative wellness remedies and tasty beverages. She stressed she won’t be in competition with other coffee shops, or Stone Leaf Teahouse next door.
“This is a space that’s devoted to botanical wellness,” she said.
In fact, Buker has been in close contact with owners of Stone Leaf Teahouse about sourcing teas that could enhance the selection at the 11th Hour. She’s specifically looking for “purposeful teas” — also known as Chinese medicine teas — that deliver healing power to specific areas of your body, according to Buker.
She’s sourcing her coffee from a Colorado company called Strava, which infuses its beans with CBD.
“I did a lot of research online and discovered the brand and reached out to them, got some samples, and really liked the taste,” Buker said. “You can’t taste any CBD in it. It just tastes like a really good cup of coffee.”
Customers will be able to buy Strava by the bag, or have a cup prepared while they wait.
“I’m going to be grinding it just like a regular coffee, and making espresso drinks out of these ground beans,” said Buker, who is hiring a couple of baristas to help out. Customers will have three CBD strength options for their coffee: 4 milligrams of CBD per serving, 10-milligrams and 20-milligrams.
Also on the menu: “Rasa,” an adaptogenic brewed drink that includes a lot of plants and mushrooms that help support whole body wellness, according to Buker. She and her staff will make the Rasa to order for customers.
“It’s going to be a delicious coffee alternative for later in the day, when people still want that fun coffee shop drink, without the caffeine,” she said.
For the adventurous and those on a ketogenic diet, 11th Hour will serve up what Buker called “bullet-proof” coffee — a blended drink that includes coffee, butter, heavy cream and coconut milk.
The ketogenic diet is low-carb and high-fat, similar to Atkins.
“Fat keeps you satiated longer than carbohydrates,” Buker said. “A lot of ketogenic people have their bulletproof coffee in the morning and one meal for the rest of the day.”
Folks will be able to buy CBD drops to sprinkle on food or place under the tongue. Also available will be smokable flower of the cannabis plant, trimmed and ready for the consumer to grind and roll for smoking. Pre-roll CBD joints will also be for sale, Buker said, as well as trans-derm CBD patches.
She stressed all her products will comply with Vermont law.
“It’s not a head shop, but a botanical wellness shop,” she said. “I’m trying to bring the cannabis I know and love into the mainstream. I don’t use marijuana and I’m not a smoker. But I have used CBD for chronic pain personally for several years, and I’m not alone.”
Buker is hoping 11th Hour will develop a keen following.
“This will be a way to help people live with full-body wellness, and have fun coffee,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]