Retailer Spotlight Series: Emily Kanter of Cambridge Naturals

Q: For those who don’t know, please tell us a bit about yourself, Cambridge Naturals, as well as your parents and how they founded the business?

Cambridge Naturals was founded in 1974 by my parents Michael and Elizabeth, who were then 23 years old. They were motivated by the politics of food – witnessing the destruction of our planet through industrial farming, pesticides, unfair labor practices, etc, and opened the store as a way to provide an alternative model of business and consumption. 46 years later, we’re still going strong, with two locations! We’ve moved a bit away from the traditional grocery store model to focus on being a health and wellness resource to our customers – we sell supplements, herbs, body care, curated organic and natural groceries, and a “healthy lifestyle” selection with fair trade and low waste goods. We do a lot of staff training, so our team is highly knowledgeable and able to provide helpful information and excellent customer service.

I grew up in the biz, but spent most of my early adulthood focused on building a career in the non-profit world (though still in the sustainable food/social justice arena). I got my MBA while my now husband and I were living in Portland, OR. We both went to the same grad program and were often using Cambridge Naturals as a frame for the types of business we were learning about. In 2014 Caleb and I moved back to help my parents transition out of the day-to-day, as well as help grow our business and organizational model.

Michael and Elizabeth Kanter, Founders of Cambridge Naturals in 1974

Q: With your family roots in the business, do you find that your approach to owning and operating CN is unique from other retailers?

I think I have a deep understanding of our business model and our history from growing up in it, that I wouldn’t have gotten from simply going to business school. Sometimes that gets in my way – like my parents, I’m often caught up in “the way things have always been” – and so it often helps to have Caleb (who didn’t grow up in the business) provide a unique and fresh perspective. And, I think growing up in it has given me an inherent understanding that is invaluable. I can understand why our long-time customers appreciate Cambridge Naturals, and I can also speak to the wants and needs of our younger (millenial, Gen X, even Gen Z) customers. I think that understanding our roots has helped ground me and keep me focused in the midst of the absurd growth of our industry. The trendiness of “wellness” has meant that everyone and their brother is starting a wellness brand or retail business – whether or not they have true passion or knowledge. I’ve also seen so many new retailers emerge in the last few years (mostly online, but some with brick and mortar spaces) who are clearly targeting a white, affluent customer base. That’s not who we are at Cambridge Naturals – we appreciate that our customer base is widely diverse – racially, ethnically, socioeconomically – and we aim to provide health and wellness solutions that are accessible to all of our customers.

Q: How did your relationship with CBD begin? In what ways do you use CBD in your self-care routine?

We started learning about CBD a few years ago, when my father Michael (who is often reading articles about supplements and new research) started hearing more about research for its effectiveness around inflammation and stress. If there’s one thing most Americans have in common, it’s stress and inflammation! Certainly there is no “silver bullet” but many of our customers were already seeking solutions for these issues and trying to avoid pharmaceuticals with unpleasant/dangerous side effects. So CBD seemed like an amazing alternative – and it has certainly turned out to be, for so many people!! We now carry several dozen (well-researched, highly reputable) CBD brands such as The Healing Rose. I use CBD on an almost daily basis! I often take a couple CBD gummies or a dropper-full of one of several favorite tinctures before I go to sleep. I also occasionally enjoy a CBD-infused treat like a CBD seltzer or caramel, especially if I’m having a stressful day. And I use topical CBD like The Healing Rose’s salve on my IT Band, which is often inflamed (especially when I try to pretend I’m a runner).

Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge, MA

Q: How have you witnessed THR products work in your customers’ lives in regards to their self-care practice and overall wellness? What is your favorite THR product?

We have some extremely loyal THR customers! So many people who use THR for their achy knees, sore backs, tired feet, and find sweet relief. I particularly love the 600mg Lemon Ginger salve – even though it’s a little more expensive, I find that it’s worth every penny when it comes to soothing my inflamed IT Band or a stiff neck from sleeping in an awkward position. And I love the way it smells.

Cambridge Naturals in Brighton, MA

Q: What does self-care mean to you? And what are three self-care habits you can’t live without?

Self-care to me means that I’m feeling connected to my personal, local, and global wellbeing. It means I’m taking time to nurture my own creativity or relaxation needs, I’m connecting with friends and feeling good about supporting them and gaining joy from the experience, and also that I’m participating in small ways to help make the world a better place (for myself and future generations). Doing these things truly feels like “self-care” – I find myself more holistically rejuvenated than if I was just taking a daily bath, or similar (don’t get me wrong, baths are wonderful).

For a few of my personal-focused self-care habits, I take at least one long walk or hike a day (often with our dog, Milly) – time in nature is essential to my well-being; I try to spend time cooking a delicious meal at least a couple times a week, and we often invite friends over to share it; I love to curl up with an inspiring book.

Q: What is one quote or mantra that you would like to share?

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” – Henry David Thoreau

Q: Where can others connect with you and Cambridge Naturals? Website(s), Social Media, Addresses, etc.

For our website: www.cambridgenaturals.com, @cambridgenaturals on Instagram, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cambridgenaturals and www.facebook.com/cambridgenaturalsBL.

We also have a newsletter that we send out infrequently with fun tips and sales and newsy stuff and birthday coupons – you can sign up on our website!

The Kanter Family