SALEM — In four months, Sarah Gordon went from struggling to leave her house to opening her own small business.
Gordon’s new shop, Holistic Gypsies at 100 S. Maple Street in Salem, has some unusual products for sale like CBD oil, kratom and e-cigarettes, in addition to essential oils, candles, jewelry and what she calls “boho décor.” Everything in her shop is something that she herself uses to help her stay clean from drug addiction, and a reminder to do something more with her life.
“I feel like a butterfly coming out of their cocoon,” Gordon said, surrounded by the vibrant items in her store from the green bookshelf in the corner to the dreamcatchers hung on the walls and ceiling. “I feel like a miracle and I want to share it.”
While Gordon’s store opened quickly, her journey from drug addict to small business owner has been anything but easy. She’s been through things she shouldn’t have survived, Gordon said. Her best friend, who overdosed in 2008, didn’t survive.
Gordon herself faced death just a few years after that, spending four months at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as doctors worked to stop her organs from shutting down from years of substance abuse.
“Doctors didn’t know what to do with me. Almost death didn’t even phase me. I felt distant,” Gordon said.
Gordon’s history of drug addiction started long before that, however. She started using as a teenager in La Harpe, Ill. The first time she got drunk, she was 15-years-old. She began smoking at 17-years-old before trying acid and meth.
Gordon then moved to Burlington to go to cosmetology school, where she soon flunked out and began doing crack cocaine. In 2006, Gordon went to a rehabilitation facility in Cedar Rapids and then enrolled in Capri College. While she tried to make friends, many of them were from rehab. Although they tried to lift each other up, eventually one of them would relapse.
In 2010, Gordon finally settled down in Salem close to her parents. Shortly after moving to Salem, she and her partner began trying bath salts.
“Now, I look back on it and maybe if someone had sat down with me and was like, ‘It’s all fun and games to get high, but it’s hurting your children,’” Gordon said, who has now been clean for six years. While they still struggle, they both know if they let themselves get back into that lifestyle, they’re done for, Gordon said.
Opening Holistic Gypsies is a leap of faith. The products Gordon sells are things she has found help her as a recovering drug addict and are often suggested as alternatives to prescription medication.
Kratom is an herbal supplement that originates from India. Gordon sells it as a powder that she herself drinks as a tea. Kratom, while legal in Iowa, is illegal in five states. Gordon discovered the supplement while going to pain clinics for her fibromyalgia and other health problems.
Gordon sells three different strains of kratom. Her saying is “red for bed, white for fight, green for in between.” Side effects to kratom can be nausea or constipation.
Another alternative product Gordon sells is CBD oil. It is extracted from hemp and does not contain THC, which is the strain in marijuana that produces a high. It is legal and can be purchased at some general stores. Gordon has found it treats her migraines, depression and helps her relax so she can start “feeling her vibe” again, she said.
Gordon was introduced to CBD oil by her friend Jennie Maddox who recently died from cancer. The oil helped control Maddox’s pain through cancer treatments.
Maddox’s death was also the push Gordon needed to do something more with her life and open Holistic Gypsies. Gordon had watched Maddox fight for her life and it was time Gordon fought for hers, she said. Gordon and Maddox had dreams together. They wanted to purchase a vintage camper and travel across the U.S. selling products.
“It feels horrible doing it without her, but I know she’s watching me and she’s right here with me,” Gordon said.
Gordon wants to attract people to her store who have stories like hers, who maybe are still going through the hardest parts of it. To others with drug dependency, mothers and people who aren’t sure if they believe in God, she wants to be there for them and tell her story.
In the back of Gordon’s shop is a table. She hopes it becomes an alternative to hanging out at a local bar. Holistic Gypsies will not only be a specialty store where people can shop but somewhere people can come and chill, she said.
“The blessings just keep coming, like can I pinch myself?” Gordon said. “It’s not just the shop, it’s my life.”
Dana Osier, who is renting Gordon the space for her shop out of her beauty salon, wishes Gordon the best in her endeavor.
“I’m happy to let her do it,” Osier said. “I love Sarah and I hope it works for her. (The shop) is hers.”
Cheyenne Connolly, of Salem, who has been assisting Gordon in the first few weeks of the opening of Holistic Gypsies said there is a need for the little shop in the community of Salem.
“You don’t see holistic stores anywhere,” Connolly said. “I hope it takes off so she can get a bigger place.”
There will be a grand opening for Holistic Gypsies on Oct. 26 and 27. The shop is open on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 3 to 7 p.m.