#14. Elena Capozzi
The West Side of Buffalo is certainly one of those places where you can see the signs of Buffalo’s renaissance. We have already highlighted some of the businesses over there, including BreadHive, Five Points, and we are now happy to introduce you to Elena Capozzi of Nature’s Apothecary. We are big fans of healthy foods and healthy living. That’s why she caught our attention while we were at the Horsefeathers building for lunch one day. We weren’t the only ones. She was nominated by Katie Blackman. Turns out, we found a nice story about someone who was excited to see what was happening in Buffalo and wanted to be a part of it.
“I grew up in Buffalo and I went to school at RIT for Dietetics but they kind of started teaching in a way that I wasn’t really aligned with. And they were not really taking a holistic approach to nutrition. So I switched my major to something else and I started doing holistic nutrition online through Integrated Nutrition. I started doing that and I started learning about holistic nutrition and how much food can influence your body and how you feel, and your mind, and all that stuff. I finished out that program and moved to New York, and I started working at a raw restaurant, learning a little more about raw foods and that kind of thing. Then I moved to Denver and I was working in the food industry out there. I saw everything happening in Buffalo and kind of wanted to be a part of it. So I just moved back actually about a year ago. Two months after I moved back to Buffalo, in April of 2015, I started Nature’s Apothecary.”
What made you want to start your own business?
“I guess I always knew that I wanted to do something like this. Both my parents have their own businesses, so I kind of just fell into it. But I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to do a cafe, and I always grew up cooking with my mom in the kitchen. I was in Florida, in St. Petersburg, and my mom and I were on vacation there and we kept going to this raw restaurant. I never really knew that I wanted to do raw. And so we kept going to this restaurant and I was like, “Wow, this is awesome, I need to do something like this.” After we had come home, it took me maybe like two months to open this place.”
Why at the Horsefeathers Building?
“I had been here before. There was another girl in this space, but she’s on Grant and Lafayette now. Actually, she just moved to a new location. She was in here. I came here to visit with my mom when I was in college and I always just loved this building. I was searching on Craigslist, just kind of looking around. I was working at Feel-Rite part time in their kitchen but I was looking around thinking I wanted to do something for myself and I came across this place. I looked at it and loved it. This building was awesome to start a business in. There are so many amenities that I didn’t have to really deal with. Like, the kitchen downstairs we often use, is certified and I don’t have to do heat or utilities, or anything like that. I don’t have to deal with anything with my space, which is so nice to start a business in. And with the clientele with all the other businesses in here and in the market. It’s really a great place to start.”
How did you get everything started?
“A lot of the stuff I had doubles of at home because I had an apartment in Denver, and then we have all the same stuff at my house right now because I’m living in Clarence right now with my family. So a lot of the stuff I already had. And then there was a girl outside of Rochester who was in the process of selling her bakery. She was selling everything super cheap so I took a Uhaul up there and just loaded up with all of our stuff: all of my plates, my freezer, this little fridge, that fridge, I mean, everything I got from the same lady. And then my dad, who builds houses, and my brother built this bar and table. They were so awesome with it. I told them I wanted to do this and there were like, “Okay, let’s do it!” I’m very fortunate that they were so giving with everything and willing to help.”
Do you find that this neighborhood is a good fit for this?
“It’s definitely a destination, but it’s good because there’s so many other businesses in here that draw everyone in here. Martin Cooks has a huge clientele that he brings in here, and the Caribbean ladies. And then they do the Winter Market, so that brings a ton of people in, too. People start finding out about me via word-of-mouth, it’s not like someone is walking by and they come upon it. But I like the location.”
Is there anything that you’re surprised about starting your business?
“I definitely thought there were going to be more bumps in the road. It’s kind of been really smooth and there really hasn’t been any huge issues with anything. So I was kind of surprised because I sure, I mean, obviously this is chicken wing kind of a city, so I wasn’t sure if people were going to accept it and want to come here and be interested in it. But everyone really welcomed it and loves it. I was surprised there were so many people who were so happy that I was opening. I didn’t realize how many people were into raw and vegan, and that kind of thing. There’s a ton of people that are into fitness, and juicing, and good foods, and I think a lot of people are really figuring out how much good food can influence your body and how good you feel. Which is awesome. And there’s a lot of young people who are coming to the city, too. So I think they’re more into it. ”
What does a day look like for you?
“I usually get here around 7:30/8am. I open at eleven, so I try to start prepping everything for the day. A lot of the things that I do have to go into the dehydrator, so I have to get here early because for raw food, you don’t want to cook it above 118 degrees. So if I want to cook something or make something warm, or kind of soften something up, I have to put it in the dehydrator. And it usually takes at least ten to twenty-four hours, so I get here in the morning to try to take it out and see if it’s ready or not. Or I’ll pre-make things and keep it in a cooling drawer and put it down here, so I try to get here maybe five hours before lunch happens. I prep all my stuff, then I open at eleven. Usually I have a couple people who come here before. And I’m just prepping throughout the day for the next day; making smoothies, making juice.
Is it just you? Do you have anybody helping you?
“No, it’s just me. My mom comes in sometimes and helps. I was actually in Montreal this weekend, so she came on Saturday. It was the first time I ever had her work for me by herself. I was a little nervous and I didn’t have cell phone service. But she’s in here and she taught me how to cook, so I had faith in her. She’s the first person I ever had work for me. But yeah, it’s usually just me. I don’t really use recipes or anything like that, so I don’t know if it would really work out with someone else right now, because I don’t have anything written down and I just go with the flow.”
Is that how you want to keep it for now, or do you have any goals?
“I was thinking about hiring someone to help me juice, just because I have a few places around the area that want to carry my juice. Like there’s a gym Revolution, (if you haven’t checked them out, they’re amazing). The girls are so, so sweet. Their space is amazing. They want to carry my juices in a few of their bars. So I sometimes have fourteen, fifteen hour days and it would be easier to have someone juicing for me. So I was thinking about hiring someone to do that, but it’s not really at the forefront right now.”
Do you have any predictions?
“I would like to grow, and possibly open a second location, maybe inside a gym or yoga studio or something like that. And possibly grow into half of a food market, and half this. So do a little bit of grocery in there, too. But I’m just kind of going with the flow right now and seeing what happens. It all happened so fast that it’s hard to slow down right now. I’m so young too, I’m twenty-two. I went through a couple jobs that I wasn’t happy with, and I just knew I needed to work for myself and have my own schedule, and do my own thing.”
Are there any inspirational stories that motivate you?
“I think I just have such a passion for nutrition and realized how much it impacts me and how good I feel, that I want other people to feel that way. I just want people to know this healthy food can taste so good, too. And your body feels so good.”
Tell us one thing you want people to know about you and your business?
“Just that you can come here and get good, healthy food and feel good after you leave feeling satisfied. Nothing I use is from a package. All my milks, I make every morning here: my almond milk, my cashew milk, my coconut milk. There’s not one thing that I get from a package that has more than one ingredient in it.”
What would you tell a younger version of yourself?
“Don’t stick with something that doesn’t make you happy. If you don’t feel fulfilled, don’t stay doing it. There’s always another option.”
What could the community of Buffalo do for you or for your business?
“Just that when someone’s happy with what they see here and what they get here – just tell other people about it. I don’t pay for marketing or advertising, I post stuff on Instagram and Facebook and then the rest of it’s word-of-mouth. So, people talk about it and people come in. It’s a good way to advertise and get people back in the door. We’re such a close-knit community, too, and I think that’s very important regarding a small business. If you’re going to do this in a big city, it’s so much harder. It’s nice to be a part of everything here. There are so many people who are in the suburbs who don’t realize how awesome the city is. There’s so much going on here, and they’re just completely unaware of it.”
Do you get any funny or weird questions?
“Some people don’t even realize they’re eating raw or vegan, which is kind of funny. Like some of my mock-meats that I do, like I make tuna out of sunflower seeds and seaweed. People eat it and they would never even know that it wasn’t tuna. It’s funny. A lot of people are very curious. They’ll ask me a ton of questions about something just because they don’t know and they just want to learn about it. I haven’t had anything that made me feel awkward or anything like that.”
Follow Elena, and Nature’s Apothecary on Social Media
She has a habit of posting photos of some really good looking food, drinks and treats!
Nature’s Apothecary is located at the Horsefeathers Building:
346 Connecticut St | Buffalo, NY