Elmwood Park herb store a natural fit for customers
Owners Ken (left) and Anita Bernas and Manager David Laurent freely offer information about nutrition to customers of Larrabee Herbs, which has been around in one form or another since 1872. | Cathryn Gran~Sun-Times Media
Where: 7628 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park
Information: (708) 453-7898
Updated: February 15, 2013 5:10PM
ELMWOOD PARK — This herb store has deep roots.
Larrabee Herbs first opened its doors in 1872 at 1654 N. Larrabee St. in Chicago, the year of the Great Chicago Fire said Anita Bernas, who owns the store now along with her husband, Ken.
The pharmacy sold bulk herbs and herbal tonics as well as homeopathic remedies, she said.
These days, it still dispenses herbs, along with toiletries, reading materials and other related items, just as it has to residents of Chicago and the suburbs for decades.
If you’ve got a nutritional question, chances are, they’ve got an answer for you.
“We counsel,” Ken Bernas said. “We don’t sell weight-loss products.”
He, his wife and manager David Laurent are all certified nutritionists.
“If people have questions, we will guide them,” Ken Bernas said, “if they’re willing to listen.”
Consultations are provided at no charge a fee.
“It’s part of doing business,” Ken Bernas said. “Basically we don’t promote anything.
“We try to educate.”
For the past 13 years, the store has been at 7628 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park. Before that, Larrabee Herbs spent 10 years a few blocks east on North and Harlem avenues.
Anita Bernas’ father, John Merritt, bought the business in 1959.
“The man was a genius,” Ken Bernas said of his father-in-law. “He was sickly as a kid.”
Anita Bernas explained her father barely survived scarlet fever and lost two of his sisters to the disease.
That experience drove him to learn as much as he could about natural health, herbs, vitamins and spirituality.
Ken Bernas said Merritt used that knowledge, along with the original 1872 formulas, to build the business.
Larrabee Herbs started with herbs, which continue to make up an important component of the business.
Another vital component is Laurent.
“He’s been with us for 32 years, since he was a teen,” Ken Bernas said. “He’s very important. He’s like a son.”