Nestled in the small, charming town of Virden, Manitoba sits the equally small and charming San Tai Health Foods. For rookie retailer Kathy Hamilton, Virden was the ideal place to open her first health food store in 2010. "The population is around 3,500 and higher with surrounding areas, so it is a bit bigger than a small town but doesn't have the city atmosphere. Virden is a very progressive small community with agriculture and oilfields keeping the town in full motion."
Located in southwestern Manitoba, Virden first developed as a farming community, but when oil was discovered in 1951, it soon became known as the "oil capital of Manitoba." But oil and farming aren't the only things Virden is known for. It is also known for it's beauty. In 1920, it was nicknamed "Virden the Beautiful" and was one of the first communities to participate in the Communities in Bloom program. Since it's participation, Virden has been recognized for achievements in the areas of heritage preservation, environmental programs and a long term vision for the environment. (source www.virden.ca) And of course it's home to San Tai Health Foods. Kathy took some time recently to tell us about her 900 ft. sq. store and her experiences as a new retailer.
We carry a bit of everything - vitamins and minerals from A to Z, gluten-free, raw and organic products, salt lamps, cleanses, natural skin care products, honey and bee products, probiotics, and much more.
The store is very welcoming and warm, not clinical. Every space has a section such as for baby, for men, for teens etc. I also offer reflexology, the vibration machine and a health practitioner comes in every six to eight weeks.
Trying to cover everyone's wants! I do my best to keep the store very well stocked, and always try to offer something new and different.
Probably for our huge selection, a great membership program, and making the time to listen and talk to customers. It's a very friendly and warm atmosphere.
We offer a $10 lifetime membership which entitles the customer to 10 per cent off products all the time. It is an incentive for people to return and shop during all seasons, not just when sales are on.
Some of the challenges were learning what to stock in the store, learning who your clientele would be and getting to know suppliers and the products that were available.
To be truthful, I am so happy with the way the store turned out. The customers are awesome. I would not really change anything.
My advice would be to follow your passion. The health food industry has been in my thoughts and dreams for 25 years. I am so happy to have the opportunity to live the dream and learn more about natural health, as I do believe it is the way to optimum health.