|Ashland's new age economy|
|The business of spirituality|
|A new age mecca|
Will Wilkinson is the community fitness director at Hidden Springs Wellness Center and co-founder of the Southern Oregon TimeBank. The decade-old center is solidly in the black, he says.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch
Spiritually aligned business owners are well represented on the Ashland Chamber of Commerce’s membership list and play an important role in the local economy, says Katharine Flanagan, with the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.
“The alternative business sector is woven into Ashland’s economy and recognized in the full scope of the Ashland business community,” says Flanagan. “Ashland is very open and accepting of varying businesses, people, and ideas.”
The sheer number of business people in Ashland who say there is a spiritual component to their business plan suggests this niche employs hundreds of people, if not more. While putting an economic impact value on these businesses is virtually impossible, Flanagan says taken as a group they clearly make a substantial financial contribution to the town.
Flanagan says the Chamber doesn’t track businesses that claim to be spiritually aligned, but the number of green/wellness/health businesses in town that embrace “environmental stewardship while practicing economic and ecologically sound practices” is large and growing. As examples, she cites Ashland Food Cooperative, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Standing Stone Brewery, Ashland Community Hospital, United Bike Institute and Yala Designs — all Chamber of Commerce members.
It does seem to be the sense of community that Flanagan cites that makes Ashland a magnet for businesses that are either spiritually aligned, or sustainably or ecologically minded. Many say they visited once or twice and felt “at home,” surrounded by like-minded people. Others say they were attracted by the combination of the climate, the geography and the richness of the land itself. Then, there are those who say they feel a spiritual kinship with the town.
“We were definitely drawn here,” says Dona Zimmerman, owner of the Web-sters, a wool and yarn store in downtown Ashland that she founded 28 years ago. Born and raised in Southern California, she was “looking for a different experience” for her children. While visiting friends in Ashland, “there was this house and someone said it might be for sale. It was offered to us, we bought it.” Now several houses later, the couple raises sheep on 50 acres. Some of the yarn and wool sold at Web-sters was sheared off those sheep.