Saje Natural Wellness
Saje Natural Wellness on Queen St. West is the Toronto flagship store for the B.C.-based purveyor of all-natural body and wellness products. It's by no means the first Toronto location, though -- before setting up shop on Queen West, they moved into Vaughan Mills, Square One, and Yonge and Eglinton in the span of a few short months.
"Honestly, we've actually been working on real estate for the last two, two and a half years," says founder Kate Ross LeBlanc. "We would have come earlier!"
Kate says the goal was always for the company, which focuses on 100% natural products, based on essential oils, to eventually expand eastward. That plan crystallized five or so years ago, when the 24-year-old company undertook a rebrand, shedding the last vestiges of its hippie origins for a sleeker take on all-natural skincare and bath products.
The Queen St. store itself -- formerly home to B2 Shoes -- is huge, with a dizzying array of products in tiny apothecary bottles lining the shelves. If you don't already know what you're in for, or you're not into using essential oils in your day to day life, it can be difficult to know where to start. (Following your nose is a good initial strategy -- their products, which prominently feature essential oils, smell heavenly pretty much across the board.)
However, the folks behind Saje stress that adding a few drops of plant essence isn't enough -- all of their product formulations are free of synthetic ingredients. "A lot of companies use essential oils because they smell good, and people are attracted to it, but it's not a holistic situation," says Saje creative director Kiara LeBlanc. "It's like taking a great organic herb and putting it in with a bunch of filler products for food. It's a great marketing gimmick, but it doesn't actually deliver."
They take that mandate so seriously, Kiara says, that she's spent years trying to create a hair care line for the store that avoids synthetic materials while still competing with any other salon brand around in terms of quality. ("It took me two years to formulate what I now call the perfect lip balm ," she adds.)
Their "natural healing" line, which features essential oil-based remedies, are a customer favourite, available in either single bottles or in "pocket pharmacy" sets ($49.95). As Kate says, "they help you combat everyday ailments, like flus and headaches and allergies and insomnia and indigestion -- the list goes on."
If that's not your speed, the LeBlancs suggest their Every Body line, which encompasses everything from soaps (5 for $20) to body scrubs ($14.95) to crystal deodorant ($9.95). They also offer skin care products ($9.95 for a konjak sponge to $139.95 for a kit of products) -- a worthwhile option for those with easily irritated skin.
If you take home a product that doesn't suit your fancy, Kate says, they'll return or exchange it, no questions asked. "When we started the company, our two pillars were using only 100% natural ingredients, and providing outrageous customer service.
"Those are the things, come thick or thin, that we really hold onto - and really coming from a therapeutic approach, as opposed to bath and beauty. It's not about how you look on the outside, but how you feel on the inside. We're all about helping you feel better. I think that sets the brand apart."
Photos by Morris Lum.