Glance too quickly at 89A Norfolk Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and you might think it’s a hip city boutique. The bright yellow color scheme is designed to pull you in off the street. The furniture is artfully mismatched. Inside, the proprietor, Sarah Levy, is chatting up customers and playing soft electronica.
But look a little closer, and those new-school aesthetics give way to an old-school concept. That jumble of used art supplies in the corner is not an elaborate window display, but a form of space-sharing with another local store. The shelves, tubs and chairs are genuinely secondhand. And that couple bent over the center table like they’re examining a pricey bracelet are actually working together to pump liquid soap from a large drum.
Levy describes her shop, Cleenland, as a “low-waste, no-shame” household and personal care products store. It’s a well-packaged shop that eschews packaging. It sells bulk soaps, shampoos, and detergents by the ounce, along with reusable or low-impact versions of products that are usually one-and-done: refillable deodorant tubes, compostable picnic cutlery, skeins of floss housed in small glass bottl... Read more