My favorite part of this job is talking to retailers, especially in their stores. So it was a delight and privilege to be in Boston a few weeks back attending the grand opening celebration for Cambridge Naturals’ second location in Boston Landing, an emerging neighborhood in the Brighton section.

Only 2.8 miles from their Porter Square flagship store, which is situated in a like-minded community next to a bustling indie bookstore/café, this new one may as well be in a different country.

The Boston Landing store, at 1,500 square feet, has about one third the SKUs of the parent. It sits as a non-chain shopping alternative between the headquarters for New Balance, which employs about 900, and the Boston Bruins’ new practice arena, which also hosts skating for leagues and the public. Across the street is a new luxury apartment building intended to be filled with affluent millennials.

The store is poised to thrive in this location, but may take some time to generate the same kind of foot traffic. They’ve taken about a half-million dollar line of credit, which is what it cost to construct, stock and set up computers.

Relationships built over the 40+ years in business came throughfor the Boston Landing opening, co-owner Emily Kanter told me. She handles the product side of things while her husband, co-owner Caleb Dean, deals more directly with customers.

Caleb Dean
Caleb Dean

Over the course of the four-day celebration, MegaFood donated yoga mats, ran classes and conducted workshops. Dr. Bronner’s gave away product. Host Defense had a table all about mushrooms.

I also spent some quality time with Michael and Elizabeth Kanter, whose legacy is honored in a framed ‘70s-era photo of the couple at the register. Michael has been the face of the business, while Elizabeth handles the financials. As many of you can probably relate, in 10 years, there are only 3 days when they have not done some work, and that’s because they were hiking on a llama farm out of reach of wifi, they told me.

Michael and Elizabeth Kanter
In the beginning

The Kanters obviously love what they do and still have decades ahead of them — if Marlene Lacy is a model. At 82, she still runs A Way of Life in Niles, IL, working 11 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, mostly on her feet helping customers, her son Fred says.

“After 40 years she’s retiring - the last living dinosaur,” he said, while placing a classified ad for the sale of the business. “She remembers the names of all her customers. Been a success, even in the era of internet and chains, because of the personal touch. How often does anybody walk into a store today and hear: ‘Hello Mr. Jones, how’s your wife’s bursitis?’ Plus, she reads all the trades and keeps up. The personal touch is the only way the independent will thrive in today’s world, and she’s proved it!”

Photo by Gi Pamperien
Photo by Gi Pamperien

Laurie Petersen