Blog : A Legacy of Sustainable Change

By Katelyn | Feb 18, 2015 | in

By Ken Johnson

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – A local downtown establishment is up for sale, but the current owner's legacy of bringing green and sustainable products to the Seacoast is expected to live on. Holly Landgarten, the owner of Prelude “purveyors of imported soaps, fine jewelry & gifts” on Market Street, is putting the store up for sale and she is confident that much of its value lies in the community building and local focus the store has exhibited for over 25 years.

“I've been here nearly 26 years, which is wonderful and it's the longest time I've ever worked anywhere,” Landgarten said. “I would love to still work here as an employee but I need not to work as many hours or have as much responsibility.”

Prelude is a different store than when Landgarten first bought it from Florence 'Fa' Vereen in May of 1998.

Prelude was founded by Thom Lager in April of 1983, who also founded many candle shops in the seacoast. Prelude was different from his candle stores since it carried bath, body and gift items. He also opened a second Prelude in Newburyport, Massachusetts, that closed about 15 years ago.

“He loved to start stores,” Landgarten said. “He was very creative that way and he also loved people but he just didn't enjoy standing still and solely doing retail.”

In May of 1989, after owning Prelude for six years, Lager sold to Vereen. It was under Vereen that Landgarten originally became involved with Prelude. During that summer, Landgarten, who is a calligrapher, spoke with Vereen about creating signs for Prelude. Landgarten had only been in the seacoast for about a year, but she'd already made signs for many stores within the area, along with creating wedding invitations and birth announcements. A few years later Landgarten started working for Prelude at the register and stocking shelves and quickly rose up to managing the store. Nine years after Landgarten's relationship with Prelude began, she bought the store from Vereen.

Landgarten said that she has always been a purist about the bath and body products she uses and the groceries she purchases.

“I was one of those people who started shopping in health food stores in the late-60s,” Landgarten said.

Since Prelude was already a success when Landgarten took over ownership, she kept many aspects of the store the same, such as its focus on jewelry and bath and body products. However she did make changes to which lines and products the store carried.

“There's been a lot of changes and then there's a lot of stay the same,” Landgarten said.

One of the major changes to the store was to focus on sourcing locally, be it locally made or from locally operated establishments.

To that end, Landgarten has kept Prelude's shelves stocked with sustainably sourced, locally-made and eco-friendly soaps, lotions and jewelry.

Not only do studies show that buying locally puts more money into the local economy, buying locally also helps create a more environmentally sustainable business model. The EPA states in their September 2009 publication “Smart Steps to Sustainability,” that products that are manufactured locally utilizing local raw material are preferable for sustainability to similar products that aren't locally manufactured because of the transport-related impacts such as fuel use and carbon emissions.

Landgarten started buying from more jewelers local to the New England area, from Portsmouth, Hampton, Kittery Point, Maine, and Vermont. But Landgarten also carries jewelry from around the world – countries like Israel, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Thailand for example – in the store as well.

“A lot of it’s about quality and that it's unique, and obviously that it moves,” Landgarten said.

Many bath and body product lines were removed from the store due to their non-eco-friendly ingredients.

“The first piece was just to stop selling products that, in my opinion, I would never put on my skin,” Landgarten said.

Other lines were kept because of their efforts to offer more natural options. For instance, Prelude has always carried Crabtree & Evelyn, which is well known, and although not all the company's product lines are natural, they have made advances in creating natural product lines.

“I was pleased with Crabtree because I could see they were working on it and I could make choices about what I was going to carry or not,” Landgarten said.

Landgarten also added many recognizable natural product lines to the shelves, including Burt's Bees, which not only manufactures natural products but is also involved in several global responsible sourcing organizations.

“I've also brought in Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, which is probably the biggest line that I brought in that has an amazing reputation all over the world, it's German and it's organic from the very get go from 1967,” Landgarten said. “They grow their own herbs and flowers, they do it through biodynamic gardening which is following Rudolf Steiner's teaching.”

Dr. Hauschka Skin Care follows the philosophy of its namesake, Dr. Rudolf Hauschka, “to support the healing of humanity and the earth.”

Landgarten also brought in locally made products that also lean toward Dr. Hauschka's philosophy, like Plum Island Soap Company, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Sea-Witch Soaps, in Kittery, Maine, Flourish, in Woodstock, Vermont, Uncommon Senses, Dover, NH and Jenness Farm soaps from Nottingham, NH.

“I think I got the reputation in town that I would be open to certainly looking at products that were more sustainable ...,” Landgarten said. “... [I]t doesn't really matter to me how good somebody says it is if I see that the ingredients aren't so great, I don't carry them.”

Landgarten said that the attitude of customers looking for more organic and sustainable product lines has increased in Portsmouth since she has taken over Prelude.

Prelude is also a Business Partner with the Portsmouth-based Green Alliance, a union of environmentally conscious businesses and individual members, which educates the public on more sustainable business and buying practices.

But Landgarten, who will turn 66 in March, would like to sell Prelude to a buyer who will care about environmentally sustainable and organic products.

Green Alliance members save 10% off everything at Prelude! Not a member? Join today!