Emily Kanter is the second generation co-owner and CEO of Cambridge Naturals, a 46-year-old natural wellness retailer with two locations in Cambridge and Brighton, Massachusetts. Emily's professional expertise includes sustainable food systems, entrepreneurship, community engagement, marketing and design. Originally from the Boston area, Emily spent four years in Portland, OR with her now husband (and fellow co-owner) Caleb, where she received her MBA from Bainbridge Graduate Institute. She also serves as an advisor to Real Pickles, Protect Our Breasts and Findaway Adventures.
Tell us about your journey and what brought you and your business to where you are today?
My parents started the business in 1974. They were both 24 years old at the time, and it's very much a hippie crunchy natural food store. Over the last 46+ years it has evolved a lot. We have always carried natural body care and beauty products, but our selection has evolved and grown over time.
I grew up in the business and I worked there for many years as a teenager and in college, and then returned about 6 years ago with my husband Caleb to help my parents transition out of the business and take over.
I fell in love with evanhealy products many, many years ago. I think we've carried them for around 20 years at this point. I remember seeing the products on the shelf when I was a teenager and thinking, you want me to put oil on my skin? But as I started to learn more about evanhealy and appreciate the products, I learned about the amazing intentionality Evan and the company puts into their products and the way they harmonize with the skin - so I've been a devoted user for several years now.
Your parents started the business in the 70s, that seems ahead of their time in terms of natural products stores and vendors. What inspired them to open it?
As young people, my parents were active in the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests. They started to connect the dots between the food that we put in our bodies and the way it’s grown, especially in the US and how that connects to our whole system, including our political system and our social system.
They believed food justice to be one avenue within the social justice movements. Over time, that concept has grown and is now a general focus on health and wellness.Our mission is to provide the best choices in natural wellness products (nutritional supplements, clean body care, organic foods, and healthy lifestyle supplies) and offer an amazing customer experience to our local community.
All the products you carry are ethically-sourced and sustainable, and that’s something that is also really important to us at evanhealy. We have this synchronicity in our values as businesses that is really inspiring. Can you tell us more about these values?
I think that evanhealy is so intentional about the makers, the growers that you work with, knowing their stories, and being able to tell their stories and the provide transparency of the supply chain. I think we share a lot of that in common - both wanting to have a better connection with our supply chain and being able to say these products didn't just show up on our shelves by accident, but somebody grew the ingredients, somebody harvested them, somebody processed them. And we hope they are being taken care of all along the way and the materials themselves are as good for our bodies as they are for the planet.
We are committed to sourcing products locally, organically, and ethically via fair trade and direct trade channels, and to donating a portion of our profits to social and environmental organizations that impact our community. As part of our vision for a more just, equitable and sustainable world, we strive to partner with businesses owned by women, people of color, and under-served individuals.
Now more than ever is a time to tune into ourselves and self-soothe. What are your favorite self-care rituals at the moment?
So many different things - some things work one day and other things work the next day. My husband and I have been trying to get out into nature as much as possible. It's been wonderful that we live close to some woods and that we're able to get some fresh air. I have also been reading a lot and taking quiet moments for myself, especially now that it is getting colder. And of course stretching, doing face masks, and self massaging as well since it's harder to go out and get massages these days.
I’ve also been trying to detox from social media every now and then by taking a day or weekend or even a whole week away from the news and social media. I'm someone who likes to be informed about what's going on, but I realized that sometimes it can be overwhelming and difficult to understand the best ways to take action. I have found that when I take a little break I come back refreshed and can bring more energy.
What are your favorite evanhealy products and routines?
I have used pretty much every product in the line at this point and I don't think there is a product that I'm not totally in love with. I'm a big fan of the Wild Carrot Nourishing Eye Balm, I use it every night. It is incredibly soothing, especially for my tired eyes after staring at a screen (more often these days than ever before).
I love the French Rose Clay and use it to clay mask about once a week. I also apply it on any little blemishes that occur. I'm finding all kinds of new blemishes popping up from wearing masks all the time now so French Rose Clay has been a lifesaver.
Also, Whipped Shea Butter for Lips! I always joke with customers when they bring one of these up to the register that I literally have one in my pocket at that moment, and I always do. I think I have about 14 of them and they are in pretty much every pocket and every bag I own. It's my favorite lip balm of all time, and I’ve never found one that I love more so I use it constantly. Similar to the Wild Carrot Nourishing Eye Balm, I'll also use the Whipped Shea Butter for Lips on dry patches or cuticles that are tearing. I find them both to be amazing all-purpose sticks.
As we head into winter, I’ve also been restocking on Whipped Shea Butter with Olive Leaf, which is also one of my all time favorites. It’s so versatile - I use it as a mask, as a protective balm on top of my oils, and on my hands and cuticles when they're super chapped. I sometimes use it on my lips at night.
Shea masking is such a luxurious feeling, and I have found it to be the best self-care ritual I can do at home that is closest to getting a professional facial from evanhealy (which is one of the most wonderful magical experiences I’ve ever had).
How to use our Whipped Shea Butter with Olive Leaf as a mask
1. Take about two fingertips worth of Whipped Shea Butter (abou half a teaspoon) and melt between palms.
2. Once shea is melted and distributed over your hands and fingers, begin to massage into your face and neck, starting at the jaw and working up the face in slow, rhythmic motions, then working down the neck and even decolletage if you’d like.
3. When you’re ready, the key step of a Shea Mask is steam. Take a washcloth and submerge it into hot water, wringing it out to remove excess moisture.
4. Place the steamy cloth over your face, pressing slowly and gently into the cheeks, forehead and chin.
5.Repeat until all the Whipped Shea is absorbed and skin feels supple and resilient.
*You can do a Shea Mask with our Whipped Shea Butter with Olive Leaf, Whipped Patchouli Vanilla Shea Butter, or our Blue Cactus Beauty Balm. We love to finish with a generous misting of HydroSoul and to drink a cup of tea after!
Your stores carry food items that you can't really find in other places and everything you can imagine in terms of wellness. Your staff is so knowledgeable and helpful, and they really are able to help customers in a way that you don't see very often - it's essentially personalized care and it’s really something special.
We really love what we do. This is an extraordinary time for everyone, it's been pretty extraordinary and very tough for us at moments, but we are just incredibly lucky to have a wonderful customer base, people who enjoy shopping with us and we appreciate that deeply.
Cambridge Naturals is one of evanhealy’s top retailers. I think it comes from a really genuine place of absolutely loving the products and sharing our love for them with our customers.I hope that both businesses can continue long into the future and help support the supply chain that we work with.
Where can customers find Cambridge Naturals if they are interested in learning more?
We have locations in Cambridge and Brighton, Massachusetts. Both stores are open for walk-in customers.
Cambridge (Porter Square) Location: 23 White Street, Cambridge, MA 02140
Brighton (Boston Landing) Location: 92 Guest Street, Boston, MA 02135
We are also on the web atCambridgeNaturals.com and you can order our products online. We have all of the wonderful evanhealy products available online for curbside pickup and local delivery, and we also have shipping available if you call our store and order over the phone: 617-492-4452.
We are learning how to be an online business, but we love talking to people in person. We love sharing the wonderful products we have, so if you're able to come in and shop with us we would love to tell you about all of them!
You can also visit us @CambridgeNaturals on Instagram. We are often doing educational events virtually and sharing our love of our products, virtually as much as possible so that we can still maintain that connection. So even if you can't come in and shop in person, we’d love to connect on Social Media!
To hear the full conversation with Emily Kanter of Cambridge Naturals, click the link below.