Interview: Ralph Celebre RH(AHG)
Owner/Operator of Basil Bandwagon, a retail natural products store in Flemington, NJ
Ralph Celebre RH (A.H.G.) has over twenty-five years in the natural foods and herbal medicine fields. He opened his independent, locally owned business, Basil Bandwagon, in Flemington, NJ in 1993. He offers Wellness Consultations, Individualized Herbal Formulas, Custom Tea Blends and Herb Classes/Internships.
How did you get started in the health food retailing business? What was your background before that?
I started with a small family-owned natural foods distributor in 1982. They hired me, and my 1973 Box Truck, to be one of their three delivery drivers. I had a degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers, and thought of this as an in-between job. Little did I know it would change the direction of my career.
What motivated you to take David Winston’s 2-year herbal training program?
I was always a plant person. I was also a backpacker/camper, so I spent a fair amount of time around wild plants. I’ve organically gardened since age seventeen. But it was at the health food distributor that I first encountered liquid herbal extracts. I was absolutely fascinated by the notion of capturing a plant’s principles into a solution. I started bringing home the ones with broken bottle caps or smudged labels and playing around with them. Then I began reading on the subject. This was all in 1982. In 1985, there was an article about David Winston in the Home News newspaper. I called him up.
How do you incorporate that training into the store? How does it enhance your retail business?
My major reasons for opening a store were: 1) I had experience in the wholesale end of things, having seen many stores, and 2) I wanted to talk to people about herbs on a daily basis! So the training was essential to that. The training gave me an entire structure, a framework to build upon; it offered a system (several actually) with which to utilize herbs. I hope and think it came across to customers that I had a high degree of training, and that I was sincere about the faith I put in the plants.
Do you think other natural product retailers should consider herbalist training? What should they consider when evaluating that option?
Herbalist training can help retailers make a real connection between some of the bottles they sell and nature. They can benefit from the energetic, vitalistic approach to health issues. Retailers can bring more information to what they do every day. They need only consider how motivated they are, as the course will challenge them.