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Rebecca Gunzon, left, and Justin Adkins chat with a customer on opening day last week.
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Herbalist, Educator Open Shop on Cole Avenue in Williamstown

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Some of the bulk teas for sale at Wild Soul River in Williamstown.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The walk-in traffic on day one of Wild Soul River was encouraging on Tuesday.
 
The run-in traffic has been pretty good, too.
 
"Rebecca [Guanzon] has been surprised," Justin Adkins said as the partners helped the customers on opening day last week of their Cole Avenue store. "She's new to Williamstown, and she's been surprised and keeps commenting how many people walk and run in this town, which we love.
 
"There's a guy who lives right down the street who was running the other day, and he stopped. The door was open, and he stopped — out of breath from the end of his run — and we had a little chat. He's excited about coming back in when he's not running."
 
Adkins, an experiential learner and educator, called Williamstown home from 2007-16 and returned to town with Guanzon, an herbalist and practitioner of energetic healing modalities, to open Wild Soul River at the corner of Cole and Hall Street, a site most recently home to LaPlante Appliances and for many years Leo's Luncheonette.
 
Starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, the pair officially opened their doors to walkers, runners, bicyclists and visitors who come by car in search of teas, crystals, candles, herbs, books, tarot cards or a fresh-brewed cup of coffee.
 
"There have been some folks who have been asking if we're going to have food," Adkins said. "The answer is no, but everything we do have, we have a specific focus that everything comes through.  A lot of that is about slowing life down and really focusing on the present moment.
 
"You'll see that reflected products we carry and also in the teapot teas we have and the slow, pour-over coffee. That's kind of some of the ethos of what we're doing."
 
Part of that ethos involves seeking products that align with Adkins' and Guanzon's beliefs.
 
"We're really intentional about who we work with and looking at each company and individuals as well as far as what are the ethics behind whatever we're sourcing," Adkins said. "Are they organic? Are they focusing on small, family businesses? We're really looking at the full ethical picture of whoever we're working with."
 
Their personal sense of social justice is clear from the Progress Pride flag that hangs out to the Black Lives Matter stickers for sale inside.
 
And Guanzon and Adkins are putting their beliefs into action, pledging at least 1 percent of Wild Soul River's profits to support Black farmers and community gardens that center Black people and another 1 percent to the community efforts of Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, which represents the first residents of the land now known as Williamstown.
 
Adkins is excited about the potential for growth in the Cole Avenue neighborhood as it gets ready to welcome hundreds of new neighbors who will be moving into the 330 Cole Ave. complex a short walk away from Wild Soul River.
 
"We love this neighborhood in particular," he said. "Other than the Spirit Shoppe, there hasn't really been much business. There's an antique store. But the Women's Exchange has been out for years. No one is really sure how this is going to work in terms of foot traffic.
 
"Our focus is community, though, and already we're seeing neighbors coming in for their morning cup of coffee. We have folks who are interested in having book groups here. So those community gatherings, we really want to focus on that. The neighborhood is definitely a central focus for us."
 
The pair helped brighten the neighborhood with a community herb garden on the Hall Street side of their store. That initiative was a little challenged by last week's unseasonably cool temperatures.
 
"It looks like we're just growing spoons right now," Guanzon joked, referring to the garden markers in the raised beds. "But there are little seedlings in there." 
 
Wild Soul River at 248 Cole Ave. in Williamstown is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tags: new business,   

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Mount Greylock Schools Present Improvement Plans to School Committee

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Lanesborough Elementary School is hoping to form community partnerships to help teach its pupils about sustainability.
 
The kids already are leading the way.
 
"About five weeks ago, we had a fourth-grade group start the Lanesborough Environmental Squad club," Principal Nolan Pratt said last week. "They're all about being environmentally friendly and seeing what we can do within the school.
 
"That kind of inspired this goal within the School Council. We want to reach out to community partners … and do field trips to see places working on sustainability. I believe they're putting a solar field at Skyline [Country Club] for example. Maybe we can go see how that works."
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