A Modern-Day Apothecary

The stock at Witch Hazel focuses on botanicals.

The stock at Witch Hazel focuses on botanicals. (Photos provided)

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New Beacon shop big on botanicals

As for so many people, a cancer diagnosis changed the course of Jill Hilbrenner’s life. 

In 2020, following a year of surgeries and treatment, “I began to feel I had enough energy to go out and do something other than doctor visits,” recalls Hilbrenner, who last month opened a boutique, Witch Hazel, on Main Street in Beacon. “I wanted to do something fun and pretty. I also wanted to learn more about the ingredients and formulations of everything I was putting in and on my body.”

Jill Hilbrenner outside her shop

Jill Hilbrenner outside her shop

She was living in Manhattan and working as a writer, editor and content strategist in corporate media — much of it in global brand messaging for beauty product lines — and doing flower arrangements. She had begun the latter after picking up flowers from the nearby Union Square greenmarket.

“I’d get whatever was in season,” she says. “I posted images of the arrangements online and sold bouquets through word-of-mouth. I created a website and it took off, prompting me to consider the idea of starting a business. So I added botanical adjacents — dried flowers, vases and planters.”

The thought of having a brick-and-mortar store coincided with Hilbrenner’s desire for a more peaceful lifestyle. She and her husband, Mike Thompson, are Midwesterners who both felt a need for more community, something intensified by the pandemic. “Friends were moving out, our wonderful landlady passed and our former lifestyle felt gone,” Hilbrenner says.

“We wanted a community that would give us joy,” she says. “I wanted to take a leap, but I wasn’t brave enough to do it until the decision was made for me [by a layoff following a merger]. We made the move to Beacon and within a week, I found myself talking to people about spaces” for a store. 

Hilbrenner makes and delivers flower arrangements.

Hilbrenner makes and delivers flower arrangements.

Hilbrenner envisioned Witch Hazel as a “modern-day apothecary that taps into the calming beauty of nature. I wanted it to feel like a curiosity shop, filled with unusual objects.” 

Much of its stock is botanically inspired and nearly all of the beauty products, apparel, perfumes, ceramics and gift items are designed and made by local artisans and small-batch growers. Hilbrenner also continues to create floral arrangements that can be delivered locally.

There have been challenges, such as supply chain delays that left her with less stock than she hoped for at the July 4 opening. A floral installation wall is also missing in action. “There’s currently an investigation going on as to where it is,” she says, with a laugh. “At the end of day, though, it’s OK — nobody’s life is on the line!”

Witch Hazel, at 176 Main St. in Beacon, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Monday. See witchhazelny.com or call 845-440-7067. The shop will host a flower-arranging workshop on Thursday (Aug. 11); register at tinyurl.com/witchhazelny. 

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