A Wells Fargo branch with an ATM in Prairie Village Mall has been replaced by a shop that deals in CBD wellness and organic lotions, salves, teas, candles, muscle soaks, tinctures and something called “goo.”
Jes Naturals held a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony for its second store on May 8. Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce reps and a few friends attended the invitational. The public grand opening is slated for Friday at 5 p.m. Details below.
Emily Gilk, a University of Minnesota marketing graduate, is manager of the new store. Her mom, Patty Gilk, a licensed registered nurse, opened the first Jes Naturals in Excelsior a few months before the pandemic arrived.
Both venues sell CBD products. CBD stands for “cannabidiol,” one of many compounds found in hemp and other varieties of Cannabis sativa plants. Since ancient times, hemp has been processed into paper, boat sails, clothing, rope, oils and food.
The CBD compound is extracted from the leaves and flowers of hemp, filtered, diluted in carrier oils and processed for products that can reduce anxiety and chronic pain and treat epilepsy and traumatic stress disorder. CBD is a non-intoxicant compound, unlike its cannabis cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of marijuana. Appreciated by the wellness community, CBD use does not trigger “highs” or cause the side effects of some pharmaceutical drugs.
Patty Gilk was among those who correctly anticipated that the 2018 federal legalization of hemp cultivation would surge the number of CBD growers and retailers. The StarTribune reported in March that CBD has become a $5 billion a year industry.
In Minnesota, the State Department of Agriculture says that hemp farming increased from 38 acres in 2016 to 2,839 acres in 2021. In 2016 and 2017, greenhouse hemp production in Minnesota was non-existent, at least officially. Five years later, indoor growers planted 318,713 square feet of hemp.
The new law cleared a path for Patty to open a CBD store within her suburban swath of lakes and wooded cul-de-sacs. “I was excited because I’ve always wanted a little shop in Excelsior; I mean every one loves that,” she said. “They [day-trippers] walk down the street, and they say, ‘Ohhh, I wish I had a little store.’”
The rookie entrepreneur found a small vacant store on Water Street smack dab in the middle of its assortment of eclectic shops and eateries. Built in the 1930s, the Texaco gas station had been re-adapted for decades by successive retailers. Jes Naturals Excelsior is cozy, quaint and cute.
By contrast, the Prairie Village Mall store in Eden Prairie is in league with trending art galleries — white walls, high ceilings and lots of space. Three mounted, cream-colored plaques of carved, spackling plaster are framed on white, vertical rectangles. Designer jars and petite boxes, packages and bottles of topicals, gummies, capsules, and tinctures are arranged on wood-grained mantels floating out from the walls.
A low circular table with white upholstered chairs provided this reporter a comfortable venue to chat with Patty and Emily about CBD, the family business and the Eden Prairie store.
A shopkeeper’s story
Patricia Kerwin Gilk readily shares her personal story with customers. Before COVID-19, when sons John and Sam and daughter Emily were in college, Patty and husband Mark became 50-something empty-nesters. They live in Chanhassen. Patty was coping with menopause: the hot flashes, irregular sleep patterns and anxiety. She was abrupt with Mark.
Her doctors recommended hormones and psych meds, but Patty wanted to consider non-pharmaceutical reliefs. “As a nurse,” she confessed, “I wanted to research something more natural because of the pharmaceutical craze that I didn’t want to get involved with yet. So I started researching CBD.”
Cannabidiol (CBD) and the body’s endocannabinoid system, she explained, are responsible for the balancing and coordination of the nervous, immune, digestive and cannabinoid systems. When we are deficient in cannabidiols, our body does not function as well; cannabinoids helps our body’s receptors work.
Patty’s nursing background had provided her with the discipline to take measure of hundreds of CBD products.
Her first move was modest. She drank a cup of coffee infused with CBD. In spite of the caffeine, it had a calming effect. After several weeks of drinking CBD coffee two or three times daily, she said — with a chuckle — that her grateful husband announced, “You’re not yelling at me in the car any more when I’m driving.”
“I was just feeling better and, I say, it just changed my life,” she says.
Emily agreed with her mom, “I definitely noticed a difference.”
Patty’s research also revealed perspectives beyond the merits of a nice cup of joe with, say, a splash of 2 percent milk and CBD.
At the time, she says, more than 3,000 CBD brands were being sold, mostly on the internet. The online blizzard of products, retailers and hemp growers was confusing and time-consuming for Patty. “You do not know if it’s a real farm,” she kvetched. “Anyone can put a picture of a farm on a website.”
As Patty made plans for the Excelsior store, she wanted to make CBD decisions simpler for others, for customers. Jes Naturals would only stock organic, clean, third-party tested products from trusted brands. “I am wired to help people,” she said with a nod and a smile.
“She had done so much research on this,” added Emily. “It was fun … I had never seen that entrepreneurial side of my mom, but she was like — ‘Lets go for it.’”
The family stores
The two stores are a family affair. The name Jes was inspired by the first names of their adult kids: “J” for John, “e” for Emily and “s” for Sam. They have all invested sweat equity in both stores.
Mark, a businessman experienced with spreadsheets, guided the business plans. Patty does the vetting and buying of products and manages the Excelsior store. Emily is the marketing director for both stores and the manager of the Eden Prairie venue.
The disruption of supply lines during the pandemic greatly increased the cost of the bank branch conversion. Among the Gilk Family’s budget-savvy moves was to transform a pre-owned table from a Salvation Army store into a handsome product display. Emily and Patty used artist knives to sculpt the plaster plaques; sons John and Sam and Emily’s fiance installed the shelves. Neighbors helped install the door to the storage area and crafted the handsome wooden grille behind the counter.
Hemp at the State Capitol
In late May, a bill that would allow, with restrictions, all hemp-derived cannabinoids (including CBD and THC) to be legally sold in foods, beverages and topicals was sent by the Minnesota legislature to Gov. Tim Walz for signing. The complex, wordy legislation is generally viewed favorably by the state’s hemp industry. The StarTribune nicely explains the legislation’s complexities here.
If the governor signs, a number of Eden Prairie CBD retailers, including Jes Naturals, will likely benefit. Emily and Patty are adding staff at both stores.
Grand opening of Jes Naturals, Eden Prairie
Live music, prizes, sweets
Friday, June 10, 5 to 8 p.m.
Prairie Village Mall (near Kowalski’s & Patina)
Eden Prairie Road at Highway 5
Author’s note: Patty Gilk requested that EPLN mention that although she is a licensed registered nurse, she is not practicing at this time. She writes, “I do not use my license at Jes in this capacity and do not make any medical claims.” Customers who are on medication are advised to speak with their healthcare providers.
Editor’s note: Writer Jeff Strate is a member of EPLN’s board of directors.
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