Melinda Buchanan became an aromatherapist to help her mother deal with symptoms of chronic illness; now she has an entire shop dedicated to her memory.
Pamela’s Legacy, a new store on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor, opened Oct. 29. Buchanan sells her own essential oil blends and uses them in her all-natural products. She makes things like lip balm, massage oil, soap and bath bombs. Everything is made on-site in a small studio at the back of the store.
A couple of scaly critters add an unusual touch to the shop. A bearded dragon named Ruby and a snake named Lala live full time at the business. Buchanan refers to them as the store’s mascots.
The origin of the business leads back to Buchanan’s mother, Pamela Smith. Back in 2015, Smith was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. A year later, Buchanan became an aromatherapist to help her mom deal with symptoms without using pharmaceutical medication. She said Smith would take so many pain pills they made her sick, but she would still be hurting.
It took Buchanan nine months to create an effective formula for a pain-relieving lotion, now sold in the store. The lotion has 38 different essential oils in it.
“I call myself a makeshift chemist,” she said.
Buchanan sells essential oil blends that are already diluted with carriers so they are safe to use. Along with bath bombs, she makes bath salts and and shower steamers, which can be placed on the floor of a shower. The water dissolves the powder, releasing the essential oils to be breathed in. Buchanan makes different bath bombs and shower steamers, all meant for different things. Some provide energy, some help you fall asleep, some help clear your sinuses.
“Everything that I make has a specific purpose,” she said.
Buchanan moved to Whidbey Island from Arizona in 2016 to help take care of her mom. She started using ingredients from the island, such as lavender from Langley to make essential oils and honey from Hive Jive – also the first store where her products were sold.
“Whidbey Island is my home now,” she said. “I’ll never leave here.”
Tragically, Smith passed away in September of 2021. Buchanan was devastated and had to do something to honor her mother’s memory. She rebranded her products under the name Pamela’s Legacy.
Buchanan began selling her goods at events like Hydros for Heroes and the Oak Harbor Music Festival.
“I did all the events that I could and so many people were like, ‘You should get a store, you have amazing stuff,’’’ she recalled.
One day it hit her – that’s exactly what her mom would have wanted. Smith, a Coupeville resident, was a big supporter of the arts and locally made goods.
Along with her own products, Buchanan hosts 39 different artists in the store, all local to the island.
“We have four shops on Pioneer that do what I do,” she said. “That’s awesome. Do you know that most of us don’t have the same artists?”
Buchanan works closely with Casey Burr, owner of Hive Jive on Fidalgo Avenue, to make sure that the two shops don’t offer the same products from the same vendors.
Items that can be found in the store include hand-stitched purses, candles that smell like fruit loops and ice cream, color-changing “mood pens,” wooden Christmas ornaments and colorful coasters.
Buchanan is passionate about art and feels that she is “giving a voice” to her vendors. Without the store, they could only sell their products at events or holiday markets.
“This here gives them an outlet to do their hobby and still try and make some side money,” she said, “or even just make the money to keep doing their hobby.”
Pamela’s Legacy is a fairly small operation right now but Buchanan hopes that she can expand to do some charity work, specifically to provide community resources in Coupeville. She takes inspiration from Garage of Blessings and Whidbey Island Angels.
“With all these people that reach out to help me, I feel like it’s my obligation to help the community back,” she said.