“Nature Itself is the Best Physician.”
That’s what the chalkboard sign outside Under the Elder Tree reads. It quotes Hippocrates, one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medical science.
And it’s what the owner of this Center Wheeling shop truly believes, too.
Meet Carrie Eller, a young lady who searched a long time for a path that would lead to the financial means to raise her and her three children without working for someone else. The Marshall County native departed the Upper Ohio Valley to receive her massage therapy accreditation at the Career Training Academy in Pittsburgh, and after working for several different employers for a few years, she opted to move to Virginia Beach because that’s what this Praise Academy graduate heard she would have to do since her high school days.
“I didn’t think I would be happy about coming home, but I would have never been able to open a place like this down there,” Eller explained. “If I would not have moved home, I would have always had to work for someone else. Moving home allowed me to pursue a dream that I always thought was way out there.
“I always thought when I was younger that if I wanted to be successful, I would have to move away to do it. I was taught that I would have to leave Wheeling because there’s nothing here,” she said. “I left, and I came back after three years because the people who told me that were wrong. People aren’t the same outside of this Valley, but coming back felt great.”
Her business, Under the Elder Tree, is located at 1904 Market St., and inside a consumer will find raw, organic herbs, oils, salves, local honey, organic bath products and soaps, natural cleaning products, baby products, and massage therapy.
Eller’s clientele often approach her with a variety of ailments, whether it’s arthritis, sinus and allergy issues, anxiety, liver issues, and many more. She researches and offers her knowledge in a plethora of different ways, and she has found that people are far more receptive to treatment once believed to be those of a witch doctor.
“I guess what I do now is still associated with what people used to believe, and there are people who still use herbs for magical potions and such, but what I am trying to do is bring this out of the broom closet,” Eller explained. “I’m trying to bring what is considered an alternative into the mainstream. If someone walks into this shop to look for some relief from their allergies or their sinus issues, it doesn’t mean they are getting into some kind of voodoo.
“It’s all natural, and it’s available, and I am trying to bring it to a level where everyone can understand it. It’s simple. If there is an issue, there’s a solution provided by nature,” she said. “And if I do not have a customer’s answer right away, I’m honest with them and tell them that they’ll have to give me some time to do the research so I can offer the best advice I can offer.”
Eller said the Wheeling she once knew was a pretty close-minded community that refused to believe such treatment methods could be effective in any way, but upon her return nearly two years ago she’s noticed a difference she appreciates very much.
“I first started this business as a massage therapy place, but then I wanted to do something to give people an alternative to the bath and body shops with more of the natural and pampering items,” Eller said. “But then people started coming in and asking me if I had something for this or something for that.
“At first, I didn’t think Wheeling was ready, but then I started buying the items based on requests, and it’s turned into what it is today,” she continued. “People are definitely ready. I have people who come here from Pittsburgh, and I have people from Columbus. They are finding me because they are now open to these alternatives.”
And that means, as far as Eller is concerned, the Friendly City is no longer dead to her.
“But it was, and it wasn’t that long ago, either,” she said. “Wheeling felt dead when I left here nearly two years ago, but something was different when I came back. You can feel it. It’s in the air. People are actually believing in the city again. People aren’t telling each other how bad Wheeling sucks anymore. Instead, they are talking about the good things that we have in this city.
“People are also talking about some of the bad things, but those conversations involve ways that we can make it better. I don’t remember those kinds of conversations taking place ever before,” she continued. “It’s more about people doing their part to make it better.”
That is precisely what Eller believes she is accomplishing with Under the Elder Tree despite the fact she initially intended only to offer massage therapy at her Market Street location. The retail side of her business is open on Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then again on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Massages are scheduled by appointment at all other times when the shop is open Mondays, Tuesday, and Thursdays. An appointment can be made by calling 304-280-0127.
“What I am doing is filling a void of something that this Valley apparently wants, and I think that’s pretty cool because there are so many more things I can do and so much more I can bring to the store,” Eller said. “I do believe I could expand beyond the size of this shop. I think I would be pretty short-sighted not to think so.
“I am already at the point where I would love to have another massage therapist working here, but this space doesn’t allow it,” she said. “But I also have to be smart and wise with the moves that I make. I have to examine every option so I can be confident that what I choose is the best choice for me and the business.”
The building in which Under the Elder Tree is located was purchased in February by Crest Investments, and the owners have released their long-term plans for the structure, but these mostly involve food and not Eller what offers.
“Personally, I wish the whole thing would have been handled much better by the owners. I found out about like most people did, and that was on Facebook,” she said. “With that said, I think their idea of the ‘bistro’ concept is a good idea and if it can happen in the future, I think it would be great for Wheeling.
“But I think what is inside these six shops here is already great for Wheeling because this city has never had stores like the ones that now fill out the building,” Eller continued. “All I can do is make the best possible decisions for me and my family in the future, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Eller also admits she has yet to create her true vision with what Under the Elder Tree currently offers its customers. There’s more, she insisted, that she can do to ease the ailments and discomfort for those who seek her out and walk through her door.
“This store, today, represents the beginning of the dream come true for me,” Eller admitted. “But you will see a lot more in the future because I think we now have a growing movement of people believing in what natural products can do for the human body.
“People are now looking for it, and that’s a key to business; you offer what the people need and what the people want,” she added. “I learned a long time ago that a business owner really is not who dictates what products and what services a business offers. It’s the consumer who does, and business owners who refuse to adapt are the business owners who aren’t in business for long.”