The call came in from “someone with a story idea” within minutes after our weekly email newsletter went out carrying a lead item about Day One price cuts at the new Whole Foods + Amazon.
As the first editor this independent health store owner tried to reach, I got the full brunt of his frustration. What is it with the media? Are you advertising for Whole Foods? Why aren’t you writing about how the independents are going to fight back? Are you just lazy? Did someone declare this a national holiday? It’s like we’re all celebrating!
“We have great plans for thriving,” the caller Michael Kanter told me. In 1974, Kanter co-founded Cambridge Naturals, which is now a 2,800-square-foot natural upscale health store based in Cambridge, MA. Kanter has six Whole Foods Markets within a 3.5-mile radius.
“If we don’t come around to the idea of supporting local independent businesses, we will be sunk. If we don’t learn to partner with each other, we are likely to be sunk. We are that community and support. Curated products. Local companies. Community,” he said.
What’s key, Kanter added, is to connect the impact of local business to the local economy. He gave it a tag line: “See it here. Buy it here. Keep it here.” “We support a lot of local non-profits,” he added. Kanter is also a board member of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA).
For his part, Kanter sees plenty of opportunity and plans to ramp up everything. It starts with using his years of expertise to find great products that are not everywhere. His top priorities:
• Curate and find products not in the Amazon warehouses.
• Sample those products.
• Maintain an awesome customer experience.
Serendipitously I found myself in the company of another independent health food store owner at dinner one night over Labor Day weekend at the Omega Institute.
Becky Tarditi, co-founder of Pangaea Naturals in Manahawkin, NJ, told me she’s not really concerned about Amazon + Whole Foods. She knew some prices were going to be dropped, but it’s not why people come to her store. The floor clerk I met at Mother Earth’s Storehouse in Kingston, NY, knew her probiotics but had no idea Amazon had purchased Whole Foods Market. (If you’re ever in that neighborhood, Mother Earth’s is the place to grab lunch.)
Will Whole Foods soon be old news? That’s what Corinne Shindelar, CEO of INFRA, suggested when I talked to her. Read more about what INFRA plans in response to Amazon.
As for me, I vow to make the effort to get all sides of the story. Please do call me! I’m at 908-769-1160, ext. 216. I want to hear how you’re doing and what you’re up to.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine October 2017