Ask Brooke Dodson about the genesis of Vibrant Roots, a Whitefish-based company specializing in mushroom-based drinks and elixirs, and she’ll describe a lonely path that’s led her toward health, wellness and her burgeoning business success.
As she emerges from that solitude, Dodson is equipped with new tools to broadcast a few of her secrets and empower others, but it all began with some uncomfortable internal reckoning.
First, there were the doctors who, following her diagnosis of stage-one cervical cancer four years ago, prescribed a course of treatment that would have compromised her ability to have children. Then there was her decision to forego the conventions of western medicine and invasive surgery in favor of a personal journey to reclaim her health, during which she supplemented her diet with mushroom-based medicines, used for centuries by Eastern cultures to treat everything from inflammation to cancer.
And there was the day, 15 months after her diagnosis, when she received a clean bill of health and realized that broadcasting her lonely journey of one could help others.
“It gave me a new outlook, and I figured if these simple changes helped me so quickly, I needed to share it with the world,” Dodson said.
Rather than tell the world how to be healthier, however, Dodson decided to show it.
At the time, she was living in Kauai, Hawaii, washing glass bottles for a company that brewed and bottled kombucha, a healthy and tasty fermented beverage known for its curative properties and natural effervescence. While there, she began experimenting with a variation of kombucha known as jun tea, an equally effervescent fermented drink, but which uses green tea and raw honey as opposed to the black tea and raw sugar of kombucha.
Known as the “champagne” of kombucha, jun tea shares the properties of other fermented drinks in that it’s a great aid to the digestive system and provides the body with beneficial bacteria, while also possessing some exclusive benefits, including improving allergies due to its use of raw honey.
Upon relocating to Whitefish, Dodson decided to build a business focused on jun tea and other mushroom-based drinks, which contain a multitude of live enzymes and acids and loads of B vitamins essential to healthy and energy. She did so while working multiple jobs, saving her money from bartending gigs in order to lease a commercial kitchen and source raw and local ingredients for her teas and elixirs.
“I built this business from ground zero,” Dodson said, adding that she did all of the plumbing inside her kitchen herself, installing drywall while experimenting with and perfecting new recipes in between shifts at the Great Northern Bar. “Since moving here, this business has been my closest friend. It’s been my entire life for several years.”
Ironically, it took the loneliness of the pandemic for Dodson to emerge from obscurity, offering milkman-style deliveries of jun tea to customers throughout Whitefish and recycling the bottles — an idea inspired by her bottle-washing job in Kauai — while developing a presence in yoga and fitness studios that offered her products to clients.
As word has gotten out (despite zero marketing), Dodson has begun expanding to other nearby markets, including Missoula, and her boyfriend helped build a mobile tap house that she hopes to debut at community markets, festivals and events when the constraints of social distancing (hopefully) loosen.
“My focus is getting back to our roots and sharing what the planet has to offer and nourish us in its raw form, without a lot of adulterations,” she said. “Not only does it energize our bodies and help our emotional wellbeing, but it’s good for our ecosystems.”
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