At The Prana House, customers learn to heal themselves with nature's help
● By J. Chambless
Jacque Maldonado opened The Prana House on Church Street in November 2015.
By John Chambless
When you walk through the door at The
Prana House, you're immediately wrapped in a nurturing environment
and surrounded by products that will help you on your path to
The store's owner, Jacque Maldonado, is a cheerful guide through the vast world of organic apothecary products and holistic wellness, and she's happy to let visitors experience as little, or as much, as they want.
“I grew up with my mom and my grandmother and my aunts. I was raised by a fleet of women,” Maldonado said, smiling. “My family's originally from Guatemala on my mother's side, so that's how I've been brought up. A lot of it had to do with money – not having the ability to go to a western doctor for healing, and having to live off the land. We found out what plants can do the same thing in a natural way. I was born in America, but all the teachings came with my family. I'm really grateful for it now, because it brought me here.” “It's about mind, body and spiritual growth,” Maldonado said during an interview at the cozy store on North Church Street. “It's about using the tools that are put here by Mother Nature for us to use. It's preventive care. As a society, we look for a quick fix, rather than prevent illness in the first place.
Maldonado and her mother lived in Pennsylvania when Jacque was in high school. “When I went to Drexel in college, a lot of the holistic things started to come back to me, along with diet, fitness, exercise. My passion for it was reignited,” she said. “When I got pregnant and became a mom, that's when the full-blown idea of this came about. That was about seven years ago.”
When she graduated from Drexel, Maldonado had a concentration in entrepreneurship. “I always knew that I wanted to own a business, but I just wasn't sure what kind,” she said. “I got my certification through the American College of Healthcare Sciences. I was a little concerned that we didn't have a one-stop shop of this kind in Pennsylvania.
“Now that I've been open a few months, I'm starting to introduce more local products,” Maldonado said. “And I'm finding a lot of artisans in the area, too. I love West Chester. I live 20 minutes outside of town. I wanted a place where I had that feeling of community. Another thing I like is that the majority of the businesses are small businesses. You'll walk into a store and you'll most likely see the business owner working in the store. “I also learned a lot about organics and found out that a lot of the big-box stores that claim to be 100 percent organic truly aren't. Just because something is labeled USDA Organic doesn't necessarily mean that it is 100 percent organic. The standard is that a minimum of 70 percent of the ingredients have to be organic. The remaining 30 percent, who knows?
“I saw this space a year before I leased it, and I knew this was going to be my space,” she said of the storefront that most recently held an Irish gift and clothing store. “Last summer, the owners were buying the building, and they brought me to the space and it was just like, 'OK, sold.'”
Prana House opened in November, and has been drawing a diverse clientele – everything from people who are dabbling in holistic medicine to those who are deeply involved in the spiritual nature of the lifestyle. “When I opened the store, I wanted to carry only items that were truly earth-based and 100 percent organic. My big thing is education,” Maldonado said. “We started with the workshops and they've been sold out, so there's a need for this. I want to educate people and go beyond the myths, such as that we're anti-religious. We welcome everyone. The word prana means life force energy, and what I want to do here in the store is help grow and heal that energy that we all have within us.”
The store has more than 80 kinds of organic and ethically harvested bulk herbs – everything from alfalfa to Yerba Santa – and Maldonado is opening the lower level of the store as a place to have educational workshops on herbalism, crystal healing, reiki treatments, body work, private yoga sessions, meditations, and other spirit-lifting activities
Even if customers aren't looking for a complete lifestyle change, they can find products that are simply better for the body, Maldonado said. “Many body care products, such as lotions and soaps, have animal product testing, dyes, heavy metals and unnatural fragrances that lead to all sorts of allergies, and some have been known to have cancer-causing ingredients.
“We're all so used to buying our products from a commercial company and big-box stores,” Maldonado continued. “As consumers, we trust that these places have stuff that's edible. We don't question where it came from, or what's in it. Commercialism, packaging, advertising – all of that has contributed to us turning a blind eye on what we buy.”
Maldonado meets with manufacturers and suppliers of every product she offers. Everything is certified fair trade, eco-friendly, organic and usually artisan-made. Products come from around the world, but all share a common goal – to do no harm, either in their manufacture or in their use.
“The workshops and the events are the most important thing for a business such as mine,” Maldonado said. “Educating people on everything we have is a great tool. It gets them through the door, and then they feel more confident when they come in.”
Maldonado has a few part-time employees, but most days, she's behind the counter. Running a business “is a challenge every day,” she said. Prana House has an inviting website (www.thepranahouse.com), and Maldonado uses social media to keep in touch with customers. Even people who just stroll into the shop on a whim are welcome to browse.
“I tell people, 'It's an experience. Look around. Take your time. Learn about it at your leisure,'” Maldonado said. “I just like feeling that I'm honoring Mother Nature with sustainability in the products, and where they come from. At the store, the motto is 'Be well and blessed be.'”
The Prana House is at 109 N. Church St., West Chester. Visit www.thepranahouse.com, or call 610-436-1407.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.