Railyard Apothecary


Year Founded: 2015
Years of Employee Ownership: 2
Headquarters: Burlington, VT
Employees: 6 member owners + 2 employees
Revenue: $300,000/year
Business: Herbs and Tinctures

In 2015, the Railyard Apothecary set up as a volunteer-run local herb shop in the Independent Block building on South Champlain Street, adjacent to Vermont Rail’s lakeside rail yard. Only a couple of years later, the apothecary incorporated as a nonprofit organization before ultimately joining forces with the Burlington Herb Clinic as a worker-owned cooperative.

Through each of its iterations, Railyard clinical herbalist Nick Cavanaugh says the apothecary has always been committed to cooperation as a management principle.

“The whole business has basically had pretty collaborative, community aspects to it since the beginning in terms of just having many stakeholders involved who were sort of equally invested in the business,” Cavanaugh explained.

Now functioning in unison with the herb clinic, Railyard Apothecary is a team of six member owners and two employees. The apothecary offers a wide variety of local and imported herbs for purchase while the clinic is available for personalized care from one of the clinic’s professionally-trained herbalists.

For Cavanaugh, the worker co-op structure is an extension of the apothecary’s philosophy: “We’re all about connecting people with the natural world through plants, and I think we just try to mirror the natural world and nature’s way of doing things. So the way we run the business as well--being a cooperative and making decisions cooperatively--just seems to align with that.”

While running the business has not been without challenges--particularly in regards to bookkeeping processes--Cavanaugh said the team cherishes the opportunity to benefit the broader community both through its services and through its cooperative business structure.

“I think the nature of our work is really community-oriented, and it just feels good that in our business structure it reflects that value of community,” he explained. “Being able to do things together and feel like we’re all invested in a similar way feels really good and it feels good that we’re building an institution that’s sort of like a community thing more than just one individual person’s thing.”