Home, body store grows out of health-food shop

Clarksville's Nest offers natural items, owners say

Small business

Howard Business

November 24, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Roots, the popular health-food market off Route 108 in Clarksville, has branched out.

On Oct. 14, Roots owners Jeff Kaufman and Jody Cutler opened Nest Natural Home Store a few doors down.

Like Roots, Nest is selling items that are organic, healthful and informed by cultures around the world. But while Roots is retaining its focus on food, Nest is selling items for the home and body.

On a recent visit, items at Nest included baby clothes made from organic cotton; colorful pottery designed by artists from around the world; yoga clothing and instructional videos; and artwork, greeting cards, compact discs, jewelry and cookbooks.

"We moved all the giftware from Roots over here, and then expanded on it," Cutler said. "The whole concept is that it's products for a conscious home and lifestyle." In other words, these are items that claim to benefit the individual or the planet, and maybe both.

Some products are made from recycled materials, while others might come from Third World countries by way of companies that guarantee their workers are fairly compensated, Cutler said. Some, such as coffee mugs with uplifting slogans, merely attempt to bring a little sunshine into the day.

Cutler and Kaufman have not gone on any around-the-world shopping sprees. Instead, they buy their products mostly from trade shows in New York. But that could change, Cutler said.

Cutler and Kaufman moved fast when the 1,250-square-feet former frame shop next to Donna's became available in August. "We just decided wow -- a good opportunity," Cutler said. She and Kaufman quickly designed a logo and purchased products so they could open in time for this year's holiday season.

Some of the items were moved from Roots, which has had a section devoted to pottery, candles and other home-decorating items since it opened 3 1/2 years ago.

Now that those items are moved out of Roots, the market has more room for food, Cutler said. Two large refrigerators are being added, she said, one for meats and one for prepared foods. The changes are expected to be in place by the end of the year, she said.

On a recent visit, Roots was in the midst of a reorganization, and a large empty refrigerator dominated one aisle. A yoga towel and a few other gift-type items were being sold at half-price, next to a sign saying they wouldn't be moved to Nest.

Even before the changes, Roots had boasted that it had the largest all-organic produce department in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan area. The store also sells more than 150 cheeses, plus prepared foods, seeds, grains, nuts, vegetarian fare, coffees, candies, breads and organic meats.

Some nonfood items will remain at Roots. These include organic soaps and lotions, as well as environmentally sensitive house-cleaning products made from natural ingredients. Magazines with an emphasis on healthy living and eating will remain as well.

Cutler and Kaufman used to work in a health-food store in Rockville. Before they opened Roots, they studied the region's demographics and decided there was a need in Howard County for a store selling reasonably priced health foods.

Their research apparently was correct. Roots has done well, and this year, the company won the Entrepreneurial Success Award from the Maryland Small Business Administration.

No such research was performed before opening Nest, Cutler said. "We have such a loyal customer base," she said. "All we had to do was redirect them."

Roots is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Nest is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, though the hours might change with the seasons, Cutler said. Both are off Route 108, across from the River Hill Village Shopping Center.

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