Shailene Woodley’s Favorite Herb Shop? GC Chats with Flower Power’s Lata Chettri-Kennedy
Lata Chettri-Kennedy’s quiet little herb shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a landmark that I first heard about when Shailene Woodley was on an episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. During the interview, Fallon asked Woodley to name her favorite places in New York City, anticipating that she would talk about the night clubs, restaurants, and the shopping districts that had won her favor. Instead, Woodley threw Fallon and the audience for a loop: without missing a beat, she blurted out, “I love Flower Power”.
Chettri-Kennedy founded Flower Power Herbs and Roots in 1993, and since that time the shop has become a known favorite for wellness-aware celebrity clients like Shailene Woodley and Chloë Sevigny (to say nothing of the herb-obsessed patrons who swear by the quality and variety of Flower Power’s inventory). The New York City shop is a parlor for herbal enthusiasts with an educational approach; it’s a place where customers can shop, learn about, and curate their own herbal products.
With iconic glass jars filled with herbs lining the northernmost wall, Flower Power feels both intimate and innovative, filled with intriguing plants that seem to glow under the shop’s distinctly golden lights. They stock everything from tea, incense, and loose-leaf herbs to salves, tinctures, and essential oils drawn from the garden. The quality standards are high, but perhaps most appealing is the Flower Power staff, who are quick to offer suggestions for those looking to pursue alternative medicine or a new wellness regime through plants.
A few weeks ago, on a very rainy morning in New York City, Lata welcomed me to her shop with a smile from beneath her mane of beautiful chestnut hair. For the past two decades she has dedicated herself to providing the best quality herbs to the Lower East Side community while maintaining her status as a visiting faculty member at the Arborvitae School of Traditional Herbalism. She’s a wealth of knowledge, and it shows. Flower Power now offers classes in cool specializations like “Herbal Medicine: Make Your Tinctures & Vinegars”, and others on how to make infused oils and salves.
Before we met, GC Contributor Leeron Hoory interviewed Chettri-Kennedy about Flower Power and the role that herbs play in her life.
GC: How did you get into herbs? Was it part of your environment growing up?
LCK: I come from a family of physicians. I dealt with a lot of illness growing up, and the doctors couldn’t diagnose me. I was treated for inflammation in my liver, but in fact the medication ended up making my liver worse. I was really young and I just got sick of all the medication, so I started researching on my own and I discovered 2 plants that grow everywhere: clover and dandelion. I made my own tincture and I started taking them. After being sick for 11 years I got better in 1 month– so that was it for me.
GC: Did you have a gateway herb? For example, a herb that you completely fell in love with that led to a larger love of herbs? Or an herb that you tend to zoom in on whenever it’s in season?
LCK: The common weeds. They grow everywhere. Especially the ones I used to heal myself: dandelion and clover. Back where I lived in upstate New York, there were no herb stores, so I learned about clover and dandelion. Because I knew where they grew, I could just go and pick them myself.
GC: How do you keep your creative drive going?
LCK: For me, this is a self-perpetuating joy factor. I love working with herbs, and anyone who apprentices here loves working with herbs because we see their affects. When you use herbs as medicine or as food, it’s very invigorating and rejuvenating.
“For me, this is a self-perpetuating joy factor. I love working with herbs, and anyone who apprentices here loves working with herbs because we see their affects.”
You just feel better when you are nourishing yourself with so many amazing nutrients that we haven’t even heard of. I think when you’re part of the big body that is the earth, you just feel better, because you are connected and in flow with nature.
GC: What does a typical, say, Tuesday look like for you?
LCK: Well, it’s never a typical Tuesday. As New Yorkers living in the East Village we go through things together. If its a snow storm everyone’s got a cold. So there’s a collective thread, but it’s different depending on what we are going through as a community. It’s very connected but always changing. It’s a New York Tuesday, but it’s an herbal Tuesday.
GC: What are some of your favorite local spots?
LCK: My favorite place to eat is Mogador for really good Mediterranean food. I like Organic Grill and Angelica’s Kitchen. There’s a really great dress shop up the street called Deja Vu. My favorite food shopping place is Commodities–everything there is organic so you don’t even have to look.
GC: Do you have a favorite garden?
LCK: I love Tompkins Square Park and I walk through it everyday. I am delighted when I’m walking in this neighborhood and theres a little tiny plant popping up. It wasn’t planted there, but it’s so determined. It gives me a lot of faith.
“For me, nature is my creed. For myself and the community here, we live in a way that we are part of nature, witness it and are aware of our part in it in everything we do.”
GC: How do you dress for summer weather? How does your summer style differ from your winter style?
LCK: I love the summer. I don’t love the summer in NYC though, so I try to wear clothes that can keep me cool. I love the winter because I feel the community more.
GC: How would you describe the role nature plays in your life? How has it evolved over time?
LCK: For me, nature is my creed. For myself and the community here, we live in a way that we are part of nature, witness it, and are aware of our part in it in everything we do.
GC: What are your other influences for this line of work?
LCK: Music and art. I am a singer and I also paint. I find that nature has no straight lines, everything is always changing, and I find I can express that through painting as well as what I try to express through the arrangements of the jars here in the store.
GC: If you could travel to any one destination herbal-wise, where would you go?
LCK: Upstate NY. I’m really a big fan of New York state. It’s beautiful. We have the best falls, best beaches. Hamden, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks are some of my favorite places to visit.
GC: How does social media affect your business? How do you interact with it?
LCK: I have a Facebook page for Flower Power. It helps up announce our classes and workshops and I love it when people “check in” and write about us. It’s nice that people can talk about their experience, and we can connect with other herbalists and talk about herbs with the community.
GC: What’s your coffee order?
LCK: I drink English breakfast tea. I make it in the morning really strong, with agave and whole milk.