Original Products

This profile was last updated in 2005

History

Original Products is one of the oldest and most respected botanical supply companies in the world. According to its owners, Original Products is the primary supplier to the 80 or so botanicas in the New York area. The botanica produces all sorts of oils, incenses, perfumes, and waters that bear the Original Products logo. The store was opened in 1959 by Jack Mizrahi and his co-founder Milton Benezra. The Mizrahi family has been in the botanical business for multiple generations: in the 1920s Mizrahi’s grandfather opened one of the city’s first botanicas in Harlem, and Mizrahi’s son, Jason, owns and runs the current Original Products botanica. The Mizrahi family are Sephardic Jews, but all speak Spanish and have a close connection to the Hispanic community that they service. While none of the family members actually practices an Afro-Cuban faith, the Mizrahi family harbors ancient, and sometimes secret, formulas that are utilized to mix incenses and perfumes and oils in the basement workshop.

Demographics

When the store first came into business in 1959 it catered mostly to the Catholic Hispanic community. Now it caters more to African-based religions such as Santeria. Practitioners of a large variety of spiritual traditions, from Wicca to Palo Monte, come to the store to buy magical herbs and other occult items. Patrons come from a wide array of races including Hispanic, African-American and Caucasion; both Spanish and English are spoken.

Physical Description of the Center

Original Products resembles a small supermarket, with a station in the rear that mixes oils, and over 250 types of dried and fresh herbs on the right side. Unlike most botanicas in the city that are run by one or two people, usually the owner and family, Original Products employs over 20 workers. The interior is lined with aisles, filled with everything from candles to books to incense. Supposedly, if the store does not have an item you are looking for, the workers will track it down for you. The store also sells Afro-Caribbean music and has the best collection of books on Afro-Caribbean faiths that I have seen. The owner and employees are open to questions and extremely helpful. There are two employees, a man and a woman, that do daily tarot card readings.