Want to find herbal teas, hand-made goat milk soaps and more? Head to Woodville


Alyssa Rutty isn’t a newcomer to entrepreneurship. It’s been part of her make-up for nearly as long as she can remember.

Rutty, who opened My Little Mercantile in Woodville on Dec. 5, grew up in a family of business owners.

“When I was 3-years-old, I had this little red wagon, and I’d get the toys I didn’t want anymore and take them around the neighborhood and sell them,” she recalled.

Her father ran the Rutty Animal Clinic in Port Neches, and her brother is co-owner of Rutty Morris AC.

“There’s a lot of business ownership in my family,” she said.

Rutty’s first small business was operating two snow cone stands in Nederland, which she ran ran for 10 years.

“You wouldn’t think you could get burned out running a snow cone business, but I was also going to school (earning a business degree at Lamar) at the same time, so it was exhausting,” she said.

Rutty decided to head to the islands and relax.

She opened a bed and breakfast on Galveston Island and later added a botanical store called Alyssa’s Botanical Shop.

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How it began

Rutty became interested in health at an early age, starting with assisting in her father’s veterinary clinic.

However, Rutty’s own health problems took her on a journey of discovery in the realm of homeopathic medicine and herbal remedies.

A flu shot Rutty got as a teen led to a reaction that made her very sick.

“I never really got well. It went on for years,” she said.

She suffered chronic stomach ailments, skin problems and more. Rutty went to several doctors, each with their own prescriptions to cure what ailed her – one even prescribing anti-depressants – but nothing helped.

That’s when she looked into herbal medicine and changes in her diet. Rutty gave up all processed foods, tried herbal teas and delved into a raw diet.

When the stomach and skin issues cleared, she became convinced the changes worked.

And it made sense, Rutty said, because, “in the old days before you had all these medicines, people turned to plants and found answers in the environment” to cure what ailed them.

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Rutty dove into researching whatever she could find on the topic.

“I read hundreds and hundreds of books about herbal remedies,” she said, adding that “The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies” in particular has become like a second Bible.

Rutty is now on her eighth reading of that seminal text, culling new bits of information and details with every reading.

And it fits with the messaging in her primary Bible of Christian faith.

Rutty quotes a passage from Genesis where God says “I gave you every seed-bearing herbs for meat.”

Rutty noted that in Greek, meat means “to eat.” She said people “were meant to have herbs” like the ginger, coriander seed, frankincense and myrrh she’s found referenced throughout the Bible.

“I’m a Christian and my confidence is in Christ, because I’ve never been misled when I follow his words,” she said.

Her joint faith as a Christian and herbalist led her to help others find relief from pain and chronic illness through the teas and other products she created and sold at her island botanical shop.

Rutty and now husband Josh Theriot ran the bed and breakfast and botanical business for 11 years, but their island dream took a darker turn after winter storm Uri in 2021.

Like many throughout Texas, they lost power and with it any source of heat, but unlike others, Rutty and Theriot were stuck on an island with no way of finding warmth. The ferries were shut down, as was the highway connecting Galveston Island to mainland Texas.

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A new venture

Rutty suffered neuropathy due to the cold exposure, a condition that stuck with her for months after.

That’s when the couple decided it was time for a change.

“We traveled all over Texas looking for a safer community, and we were looking for a ‘Mayberry’ town (think The Andy Griffith Show) where people are friendly and know everybody’s names,” Rutty said.

They found that in Woodville, where in a neighborhood just off the town square sat a for-sale sign, outside a former lawyer’s home and office which was zoned for both residential and commercial use.

It was the perfect spot to call home and set up shop for Rutty’s ongoing botanical business, which had grown to include soaps, balms and lotions.

She and Theriot, a carpenter by trade, got to work fixing up the old home, installing a new tile floor, building shelves and displays to showcase her teas and herbal creations.

Naming the store

One final touch was needed before Rutty could officially open her shop: a new name.

She didn’t want one that had only her name in it to the exclusion of her husband. She also wanted to ditch the term botanicals.

“I found in Tyler County that the shops calling themselves botanicals were mostly vape and CBD shops, and I wanted to distance myself from that” as CBD is not part of her regimen, she said.

Rutty’s sister told her to think about something she really liked as a child.

One of Rutty’s favorite childhood movies, The Little Mermaid, came to mind.

Her sister then suggested calling the store a mercantile, as that was the name of the general store on Little House on the Prairie, which was their favorite television show growing up.

Rutty morphed the two, and My Little Mercantile was born.

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“Genuinely, I was worried about how people would take to this,” Rutty said.

Good timing to open

Was “Mayberry” ready for herbal medicinal teas and goat milk soap?

It turns out they were. And with the holidays just around the corner, her opening was perfect timing for those on the hunt for something new to gift.

“We had a steady stream of customers during the holidays,” Rutty said.

She extended the shop’s normal hours, and after closing would stay up late into the night making soaps, balms and scrubs to replenish fast-selling items.

Theriot would help by mixing the ingredients, including the shea butter, goat milk, herbs, micah, and essential oils for natural scent that go into Rutty’s products.

They’re recipes she’s constantly tweaking to find elements that work well together, offer a variety of natural benefits and also variety in appearance and smell.

She even has a men’s line of soaps that use more traditionally “masculine” scents.

How products are made

The common ground for all that Rutty creates is it must be organic, non-GMO and in the case of her herbs and teas, the best quality attainable on the market.

Rutty buys teas and herbs and olive oil strictly from Israel and India, where some of the finest ingredients and bark-trees for herbs like turmeric naturally grow. She also buys shea butter from Australia, in addition to emu oil – which is used in her more intensive hydrating products as it is the only emulsifier that can penetrate seven layers deep into the skin.

Because she is mixing ingredients purchased from licensed retailers, Rutty doesn’t need a license to sell her products and tea blends, though she does have a Baker Law license.

And Rutty doesn’t have to globe hop for all of her herbal needs.

One in particular can be found in her own proverbial backyard – beauty berries.

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Benefits of berries

The purple berries that grow naturally in the area have long suffered under the myth of being poisonous, Rutty said, but they’re rich in antioxidants and ”have a property that allows them to circumnavigate bacteria that become antibiotic resistant.”

Moreover, the trees and berries give off “a heavenly scent and have a remarkable taste” that make the leaves perfect for brewing as a tea and the berries a flavorful edible on their own or when made into jellies or jams.

When she and Theriot stumbled upon the trees while hiking in the woods last spring, “we picked every beauty berry in Woodville,” she recalled, and the jelly made from their harvest sold out within the first week.

Rutty also carries a limited amount of other locally made products, including a popular hot sauce made by Port Neches’ Shane Wright, and organic honey from Sweet Bee Farm in Colmesneil.

Reminder of one’s self

Hanging in one of her storefront windows are ”Happy Charms by Ava,” beaded creations made by a local teen trying to raise money for college.

To Rutty, the shy 13-year-old was a reminder of herself as a budding entrepreneur.

“When you see a kid doing something good with their life, you need to support them,” she said.

Next to Ava’s creations is a corner of the shop that is just for kids, called Candy Corner. It features the colorful, sweet candies kids crave, including a 25-cent gumball, but also has healthy candies like ginger root, star anise licorice and yogurt-covered blueberries.

It’s quickly become a popular after-school stop, she said.

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Continuing demand

With just over a month in business under her belt, Rutty is already building a steady base of returning customers.

They’ve become devotees of popular items like her lip balms, whipped body butter, sugar scrubs and soaps, but they’ve also become fans of herbal tea – a staple of Rutty’s dietary routine from morning to night.

She has her wake up morning tea, her antioxidant tea, her afternoon pick-me-up tea and then those she drinks before bedtime, like traditional chamomile, lemongrass or hibiscus.

“I really put a lot into making my tea,” Rutty said.

Some blends combine organic herbs with black or green teas, while others are purely herbal, combining elements believed to have anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits.

One blend Rutty calls Egyptian Gold. It’s composed of turmeric, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and black pepper.

“Cleopatra had this recipe in her diary,” Rutty said, adding that the figure who was known in ancient times as the most beautiful woman in the world, “also drank several drops of myrrh every day and bathed in it.”

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Among her most popular selling teas with regulars are elderberry, cedar sage and one Rutty calls Blue Butterfly, a blend based on passion flowers with blue corn flowers that lend the tea its beautiful blue color.

Blue Butterfly is more than a pretty face, however, Rutty notes.

Its ingredients are said to have anti-aging properties that can help improve skin, greying hair and night vision.

“The ladies who come in for their weekly teas will try new ones, but they always buy the Blue Butterfly,” she said.

The trusted blackboard

Above the layers of shelves holding jars of tea mixes is a blackboard, describing the health benefits associated with each blend, as well as conditions that have been eased per herbal medicine research.

Oftentimes when customers are branching out in their tea selections, it’s driven by health issues unresolved by prescribed medications, or they’re looking for alternatives to pharmaceuticals’ side effects or drug interactions.

Rutty can consult her board and herbal texts in search of a natural solution.

“I love helping people and making them feel better,” Rutty said. “I’m a problem solver.”

However, Rutty emphasizes both verbally and in signs posted within the shop, that she’s not a doctor and makes no claims to prevent or cure diseases through herbal, homeopathic products or remedies.

When health problems arise or worsen, she doesn’t advocate making a trip to My Little Mercantile before or in lieu of consulting a physician.

However, from personal experience and knowledge gleaned through years of study, Rutty knows what’s worked for her and others when traditional medicines didn’t.

“I want to educate people and let them know what’s really happening – the truth sets you free,” Rutty said.

At least, it’s a nature-based alternative that set her free – an option she’d like to make available to others.

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The perks

Rutty hopes to also start a series of YouTube videos “where we blend teas and talk about the benefits,” she said, educating those interested on how to mix and make their own teas.

The Woodville pace and working from home almost feels as though she’s living “a semi-retired life,” the 37-year-old said.

And when her work is done, the perfect way to ensure a good night’s sleep is just down the hall.

“It’s so much fun to come in here at night and pick out which tea to have before bed,” she said.

For her growing customer base, Rutty believes she’s making a difference, contributing to the place she now calls home.

“As a community, we’re supposed to help people with the gifts we have,” she said.

kbrent@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/kimbpix





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