Photo courtesy of Back Bay Press.
Photo courtesy of Back Bay Press.

Meet 4 Women-Owned Retailers Taking Over Main Street: Boston

12 min read

In the age of Amazon, when seemingly everything is available for purchase at the click of your mouse, it’s easy to believe that brick-and-mortar retail has seen better days. But when innovation, passion, creativity and good, old-fashioned grit converge by way of an independent business owner, the result can be a thriving retail business that not only complements the neighborhood in which it’s located, but also serves to enhance the lives of its neighbors. In the Boston business community, these women entrepreneurs are doing just that—while also growing to multiple locations in the process. Meet these four Boston businesses taking over “Main Street” with their beautiful retail concepts.

Name of Boston Business + Where We Can Find You: For Now, 68 Seaport Blvd., Boston

For Now, Boston. Photo courtesy of For Now.

Founded By: Kaity Cimo and Katharine Requa

Store Bio: For Now began as a marketing and operations consulting businesses specializing in retail and e-commerce consumer brands. We saw a lot of the brands we work with wrestle to get their product physically in front of their audience, so we decided to help them by launching a retail incubator in Boston. We were lucky enough for WS Development—the developer in the Seaport—to have faith in our concept and give us a shot in one of the best locations in the city. With a combined 16 years of industry experience, we come to the table with expertise and an open mind.

Years in Business: 1 year

Mission: To create a place where customers and e-commerce brands can connect in real life; no screens attached.

Katharine Requa (L) and Kaity Cimo, Co-Founders of For Now.

What do you like most about being a Boston business?

Boston is an amazing market for us for a number of reasons. Our Seaport customer has welcomed us and our brands with open arms. They’re highly engaged and excited about discovering brands they haven’t heard of and touching/feeling products they’ve only seen online. They are also welcoming to engagement; most people who walk in are excited to converse and hear about what’s going on in the space. We really couldn’t ask for anything better in that regard. Boston is also home to a lot of emerging brands, some we know personally, who have partnered with us and supported us. Lastly, Boston is a great place to be an entrepreneur. There’s a great network of business owners who are willing to give advice or lend an ear.

 

What do you look for in brands you stock?

Our retail incubator is a place where digital-first brands come together to test retail in the Boston Seaport. We host around 15 brands for two to three months at a time. We often reference it as “co-retailing.” We are looking for founders/teams who are excited about being a part of a shared economy and believe in this model. We want brands who will be in touch with us regularly, promote that they are here and be open/excited with the customer feedback that we relay to them. Product is also, of course, very important. We want to sell products that are well made and will last a long time. We want to confidently tell our customers that they can trust what they buy here. With that being said, however, we are open to testing new products with brands, introducing them to the market, and collecting feedback. If a product is still in test phase, we will be open about that to the customer and they can decide if they want to be a part of the process.

 

What’s one tip you could share for brands looking to get into new retailers?

Even though For Now is not a typical retail partner, we have a lot of experience with retailers from both the brand and retail side. One of our biggest tips is to take time to identify who you want your top partners to be. Not all retailers are created equal so once you set your partner outreach into motion, make sure you’ve done your research first. Start with targeting five to 10 of your top tier prospects—stores that you will proudly list as retail partners—and consider staying local in the beginning so that’s it’s physically easier for you to manage the relationship and get them your products. A focused effort and approach in your outreach with allow you to make these retailers a priority, which they will both notice and appreciate. Placement in these locations will then “fuel the fire” to build wholesale business in the future.

 

Name of Boston Business + Where We Can Find You: Niche, 619 Tremont Street, South End, Boston; 286 Broadway, Cambridge

Niche, Boston. Photo courtesy of Ecocult.

Founded By: Lindsey Swett, long-time plant lover, designer and git’er done-r.

Years in Business: 5+

Mission: Niche is a houseplant shop focused on connecting folks with the perfect plant for their space and needs.

Lindsey Swett, Founder, Niche. Photo courtesy of Keeping Shop.

How does being in Boston benefit you as a business?

There are many things to love about living in Boston. As a retailer, it’s very apparent that people here have strong connections to their neighborhoods, and want local businesses to succeed. My business, a boutique houseplant shop located only in walkable neighborhoods, has a symbiosis with the city. We exist to fill a very particular need and we wouldn’t exist outside of it. There isn’t a need for Niche in the ‘burbs. The business model is based on servicing urban clientele and we’ve tailored products and practices for that group over the years. Generally speaking, city shops benefit from word of mouth, which tends to travel faster and farther in the city. We also benefit from the fact that people (potential customers) are out and about and walking by all the time.  Our South End shop in particular benefits from being in a neighborhood that is fairly static and doesn’t see a ton of turnover year after year, so we are able to see customers start with a little snake plant, and come a few months later for something else, and evolve their collection with us, knowing that we are available for “tech support.” That’s the best part of doing what we do.

What do you look for in brands you stock?

With a few deviations over the years, we are a pretty straight-forward plant and pot shop. As for selecting plants, I am beholden to the availability lists that I receive weekly from growers and brokers. We have some all-stars that we keep on the shelves, but I also like to add in new species, and more often, unique varieties. Maintaining a selection that includes a diverse array of plants for different sizes and light conditions is a main priority.

Nursery-grown plants tend to come in standard sizes, so I first look for pottery selections with size in mind, also shape and drainage ability. I tend to stick to neutrals and small scale makers with a compatible style and an interesting point of view.  It took some time for me to find an aesthetic as a retailer, and I spent too much time trying to please everybody, so I’ve adopted the approach of selecting pottery based on whether I would put it in my house.

 

What’s one tip you could share for brands looking to get into new retailers?

We deal almost solely with pottery distributors and makers, and one of the most valuable things to me as the buyer is a solid line sheet that provides an image of the product, the dimensions, material and other details and the cost. If everything is laid out for me, I am able to get an order in much more quickly. I’ve had makers give me too much free reign and while I appreciate the creative control, it can be really hard to make a decision, especially when you factor in all of the other things going on day to day.

 

Name of Boston Business + Where We Can Find You: Place & Gather26 Common Street, Charlestown; Junebug, 211 Main Street, Charlestown  (brand new & owned for just a month!)

Place & Gather. Photo courtesy of Place & Gather.

 

Founded By: Amanda Mitchell started Place & Gather in 2016 as a way to mix her love of interior design with need to celebrate the everyday. People constantly asked Amanda to redecorate spaces in their home and often asked for her input on home design. Amanda decided to put those ideas to work and launched a business that started with her favorite space, putting the finishing touches on the table.  Her love of color, texture and patterns leaves spaces Amanda decorates to look polished and inviting. Amanda’s style combines all of the places she has lived. She mixes her love of southern style with preppy Boston chic.

Spending nearly a decade as an inner city school teacher, Amanda still has her hand in helping students but has decided to pursue this passion full time. Just this June, she took over a preexisting business in Charlestown. Amanda is currently transforming what was Bunker Hill Florist into Junebug, a full service florist with a gift and plant boutique. Bright blooms, pretty plants and chic gifts make up her new shop a delightful place to come in and explore. She currently resides in Charlestown, with her husband and her cat, Margarita.

Amanda Mitchell, founder of Place & Gather and Junebug. Photo courtesy Amanda Mitchell.

Years in Business: 1 year, 2 months

Mission: Place & Gather’s and Junebug’s number one purpose is to make our community better. We strive to make our community a better place to live and work. We serve customers and businesses in the community. A lot of us live and work here. We love people and we love making them happy! We want to evoke feelings of joy and excitement. We purchase from local vendors as much as possible.

What do you like most about being a Boston business?
We love Charlestown because of how supportive it is as a community. It is a wonderful mix of people who have lived here their entire lives and new people moving in to experience all there is. Everyone who lives here takes pride in their community and people take care of their neighbors. That’s a huge reason that we love being here. There are very few shops in Charlestown so our neighborhood benefits by having a place to pop in to to shop or just say hello to friendly faces!

 

What do you look for in brands you stock?
We’re a Boston business, so we love local. We look for vendors/artists who are local to Boston. Besides that, we love American-made products. We shop as local as we can whenever possible. We also enjoy working with brands that are made up of nice people. I love purchasing product from people who I genuine enjoy collaborating with.

 

What’s one tip you could share for brands looking to get into new retailers?
One tip is that we love seeing a product in person. A sample that you leave with a potential customer always helps. If it is too cost prohibitive, providing a return envelop never hurts too. We rarely buy something we haven’t seen in person.

 

Name of Boston Business + Where We Can Find You: Cambridge Naturals, 23 White Street, Cambridge; 92 Guest Street, Brighton

Cambridge Naturals. Photo courtesy of Cambridge Naturals.

Founded By: Originally founded by Michael Kanter and Elizabeth Stagl (Emily’s parents) and currently co-owned with Caleb Dean and and Emily Kanter.

Emily Kanter has a background in sustainable food systems, entrepreneurship, community engagement, marketing and design, and brings that expertise to her role at Cambridge Naturals. Before returning to Cambridge Naturals in 2014, she lived in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Caleb, where she directed a hunger relief nonprofit, received her MBA from Pinchot University (Presido), worked in food systems finance at Beneficial State Bank and Community Sourced Capital, and helped Caleb to launch his firm, Owl Fox & Dean. Prior to that, Emily was the Programs Director at SBN Mass, and helped found the Boston Local Food Festival. 

Emily has lived abroad in Argentina and Taiwan, teaching English to children and adults. In both countries, she explored local food cultures and witnessed first-hand the detrimental impact of western globalization on indigenous diets. Emily has a deep understanding of the natural products industry—her parents co-founded Cambridge Naturals. When not at the store (which is rare), Emily is probably listening to a podcast, reading a great book or cooking delicious meals with Caleb.

Emily Kanter and Caleb Dean, Co-Owners of Cambridge Naturals.

Years in Business: 44

Mission: Cambridge Naturals was founded in 1974. 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. 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 and under-served individuals. We offer a curated selection of wonderful products, just for you!

 

How does being in Boston benefit you as a business?

The Greater Boston area is a vibrant, bustling place to live and work! It’s exciting to see the economy booming at the same time as appreciation for health and wellness is growing. Boston is a city that values learning, and we strive to be an educational resource to our customers.

What do you look for in brands you stock?

Brands that are authentic, thoughtful and have an ethical and transparent supply chain. We appreciate when brands understand the value we bring as an independent, small retailer—our personal connection to the people who buy their products.

 

What’s one tip you could share for brands looking to get into new retailers?
Retailers are very busy people! When reaching out to new retailers, be kind, respectful, not too pushy and also willing to offer samples and a good intro deal to make it work for both parties.

Curious to learn about more women business owners? Discover this makeup brand’s story and get ready to be inspired.

About The Author

Amy Flyntz

Amy Flyntz

Amy Flyntz is a Brooklyn-based writer and the founder of Amy Flyntz Copywriting. She spends her days weaving words to woo the masses, reading memoirs (and her horoscope) and snuggling with her rescue dog, Linus. Amy can be reached at www.amyflyntz.com.