John LaBerge is a true Renaissance man. A gym rat in his youth, he worked professionally in social services and played music on Venice Beach, Calif., later in life. Today he is the chief operating officer at Love Potion Magickal Perfumerie, an ethereal corner shop in downtown Vancouver, where he greets visitors with an invitation to leisurely enjoy the colorful and aromatic wares. Sometimes customers come in seeking potions to help them work through a personal problem, LaBerge says. “We can help them create an aura or a mood with scent, and can help them present themselves in a certain way — for a job or for a date, or help raise their self-esteem. But we remind them that we are simply perfumers who make things for enjoyment, mixing the centuries-old art of perfuming with regard to the folklore surrounding each ingredient, with the cutting-edge science of pheromones.”
Name: John LaBerge.
Neighborhood: Esther Short.
Background: I was born in Longview and raised in Puyallup. I grew up with three brothers and three sisters and we were always competing with each other in sports. My brother Luke and I played college basketball. He played at Green River Community College and I played for Lower Columbia College in Longview. I graduated from University of Washington in psychology and music. I worked with the ARC of Cowlitz Valley, and also for the Department of Children & Family Services in Kelso and in Arizona as a child protection services investigator.
How and when you got started in your business: I have always been a performer, acting and singing. I became friends with the owner of Love Potion, Mara Fox, in 1992 when we met on Venice Beach, Calif., and began recording music together. She played guitar and sang with the all-girls rock group Precious Metal. (You can still catch some of their stuff on YouTube.)
About 15 years and several jobs later, we met up again and decided to work together on her online perfume business called Love Potion Perfumes. This field was something very different from anything else I had done in my life to this point. It was exciting because I now got to be a part of a company helping people feel good, smell great and aiding them in creating or maintaining their relationships. People were so happy with our incredible scents, it really gave me a good feeling to be a part of it.
Personal/business philosophy: My personal philosophy is that life is short — spend it with people who uplift your spirit and don’t bring you down. I have always been a big promoter of love and kindness. Working here gives me an opportunity to share my love with others and now that we have a storefront, to show kindness and love to anyone who happens to walk through the Love Potion door. The world is so full of pain, sadness and misery, here at Love Potion we get to help make people’s day a little bit better and a little bit brighter.
My business philosophy is “no selling.” I just share my passion about our products and allow the customer to pick up on the things that they like. I am in a very special role where I can assist people in discovering a whole new world: artisan perfume.
Most rewarding part of job: I would say it is watching someone’s face light up after they have just smelled something we have made that is completely out of this world. There is nothing like it. We have so many different varieties of amazing perfumes to choose from.
Most challenging part of job: It is probably getting out the new perfumes that are released every other month. We are all under the gun, trying to create cool names (that haven’t already been used before), then we have to create new and exciting perfumes.
Something surprising about your work: It would have to be just how much fun we have at our First Friday parties. I wasn’t sure doing a party every month was going to work. But right from the start our parties have been sensational. Every month we create a new theme and a new magical brew for all to enjoy. We also have some interesting treats to tickle the taste buds of all those who indulge. And the parties just keep getting better and bigger.
Best feature of my Clark County community: I am giant fan of nature. My nickname is “Nature Boy” and I have been privileged to make many of our nature scents over the last few years. I am always looking for new smells that would make a great perfume scent. There is such an abundance of trails, streams and rivers around here to choose from. There is always a new spot to discover. I really enjoy hiking on the Lacamas Heritage Trail along Lacamas Lake.
What would make your community a better place: This is a great community already and I just think if more people connected with each other and got to know each other a little more, instead of being so into their portable devices, our entire world would become a better place. Too many people are detached from one another. We need more love and kindness and less apathy and selfishness.
Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: There is a cool little pizza place off Fourth Plain called Megabite Pizza. They have a great staff and the most amazing pepperoni and Canadian bacon pizza around. Lots of TVs to watch the Blazers or Seahawks. They also have some of my favorite old-school video games and my personal fave: FOOSBALL!
Hobbies: I am passionate about painting, drawing, photography, singing, comedy and hiking.
Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: There is so much to do in the Portland area when it comes to the arts. I recently had a lot a fun watching some great improv comedy. I went to Curious Comedy Theater and I would encourage anyone who likes to get their laugh on to check it out.
Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: I plan to complete my debut album. I have recorded several tracks and am in the process of finalizing the mixes. I hope to have a couple tracks available for download by this spring. And the entire album completed by this fall. Fingers crossed.
I also plan to start doing some comedy around Portland. I love doing impersonations and funny voices so I hope to get out on the stage in the next couple months. Follow me on Instagram — jklaberge — for updates on gigs around the area.
One word to describe yourself: Growing.
Person you’d most like to meet: I have always wanted to meet Bono from U2. … I think sitting down with him and talking about music and the future of our planet would be a fascinating experience.