Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

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Community Natural Foods celebrates 40 years

community naturals storeCalgary’s Community Natural Foods (CNF) received a nice early birthday surprise at CHFA West in April.  On the verge of marking its 40th anniversary, Community took home the Brock Elliott Memorial Award for Excellence in Retailing at the CHFA awards ceremony.

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Nature’s Health Products Nelson, B.C.

natures health products ownersTom and Kathy Tarasoff, owners of Nature’s Health Products have managed to carve out their very own niche in Nelson, B.C, not only professionally, but personally too. 

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Fresh start in Bracebridge

muskoka natural foodsMuskoka Natural Foods Market has new owners and  a new expanded home in a busy downtown location.

How do you replace a legend?  How about by creating something legendary in its own right?

This is what happened when two couples bought a well-known health food store from its original owner and then moved it into a high-profile space and created an amazing thing of beauty.

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The Health Whisperer

The Health Whisperer

If you happen to be in Saskatoon and are hoping to see Lovie Wesolowski, there are two places you are likely to find her.  The most obvious spot is her store of 40 years, Nature’s Health Centre.  It’s where she has helped countless people regain and maintain good health.  It is also where she has helped launch the careers of many elite athletes.

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Good Health Mart in Collingwood, ON celebrates 10th anniversary

Good Health Mart in Collingwood, ON celebrates 10th anniversary

Celebrating 10 years with a new look and a committment to the AQN vision

Suzie and John  Wensley of the Good Health Mart in Collingwood, ON celebrated the 10th anniversary as owners of the store with what they described as “the best customer appreciation day ever.”

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Good N' Natural - Steinbach, MB

Good N' Natural - Steinbach, MB

For father and daughter team Dennis and Leane Janz of Good N’ Natural in Steinbach Manitoba, it was time. “We were maxed out on our selling space, as our sales per square feet in our store were exceeding good retail practices.  So, we could not realistically anticipate growth beyond increases attributed to inflation,” says Dennis.

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The Peanut Mill turned 40 this year

The Peanut Mill turned 40 this year

When Jason Sebeslav took ownership of The Peanut Mill Natural Foods Market from his mother Antje Wirth in 2009, things were already in good shape.   Established in 1976 by Antje, the St. Catharines, ON store was one of the longest serving and most successful in the Niagara region. 

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Foodsmiths at forty

Foodsmiths at forty

During its 40 years of business, Foodsmiths has been through a few things.

There was the devastating Tay River flood in the third year of business that wiped out most of the store’s stock, almost dealing the young business a deathblow.

When interest rates climbed above 20 per cent in the early 80s, Foodsmiths founders/owners Claire and Don Smith saw their store perched on the brink of demise.  This happened just after they had purchasing their building.

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Peaches & Green: serving mid-town Toronto for 25 years

Peaches & Green: serving mid-town Toronto for 25 years

Many people see Toronto as a big, cold city.  The truth is it is actually a collection of fascinating and interesting neighbourhoods, hundreds of them, stretching from Lake Ontario to the northern boundary, and in the west from the airport to the Rouge Valley in the east.  Some of these neighbourhoods were originally small villages and towns – places like Weston, Mount Dennis, Thistletown, Parkdale, Yorkville,  Forest Hill, Swansea and Mimico – that were eventually swallowed up during a series of amalgamations, starting in 1883.

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Amaranth celebrates 20 years

Amaranth celebrates 20 years

 by Bruce Cole

Amaranth Whole Foods Market in Calgary, AB. had many reasons to celebrate this year, its 20th anniversary.  Thriving and growing in the competitive Calgary marketplace is cause enough to pause and reflect on all that has been accomplished over the past two decades.

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Two classic stores in two classic towns

Two classic stores in two classic towns

Brendan Davidson grew up in a health food store.  That fact may have something to do with him currently owning two of his own.

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Finlandia: over 40 years of offering its customers “health without drugs”

Finlandia: over 40 years of offering its customers “health without drugs”

Finlandia Pharmacy and Natural Health Centre was founded in 1974. The vision of pharmacist Harlan Lahti, Finlandia has stood the test of time.  It was a unique business when it opened, and continues to be to this date, offering customers and clients a vast selection of products, the benefits of a compounding pharmacy and a multitude of professional services.

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Natural Food Pantry Ottawa

Natural Food Pantry Ottawa

Although it sounds a bit like a riddle, the newest “big thing” taking place at Natural Food Pantry is actually something on the smaller size.

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Goodness Me! expands in several south Ontario markets

Goodness Me! expands in several south Ontario markets

Goodness Me! Natural Food Market has been on a recent expansion program in southern Ontario, opening three stores in 2014, and two in 2015.  The long-time Hamilton-based natural retailer, which was founded in 1981 by Janet Jacks, saw new stores pop up in Mississauga, Guelph and Barrie last year.  A new location opened in Waterloo in February and another is slated for Paris, ON. this summer.   This will bring the Goodness Me! store count to 10.

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Nathalie Gélinas, the president and CEO of Panier Santé

Nathalie Gélinas, the president and CEO of Panier Santé

As a youngster, Nathalie Gélinas began laying the groundwork to someday take over her family health food store, although she didn’t realize it at the time. Working quietly in the back room of Panier Santé in Pointe-du-Lac, Quebec, in the Trois-Rivières area, the 11 year-old Nathalie diligently weighed and carefully packaged bulk food items before taking them to the sales floor and putting them out on display for sale to customers. 

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Herb and Spice Wellness Shop

Herb and Spice Wellness Shop

For most retail stores, an expansion means knocking down a wall or two, moving its entire operation, or buying the unit next door to expand into.  For Jacques Amsellem and Jerome Duquette, owners of the Bank St. Herb & Spice in Ottawa, expansion meant something a little different.  They took their existing supplement and HABA departments, completely separating them from the rest of the store and moved them across the street into their very own space.

   “We were bursting at the seams,” says Ilona Jones, supplement buyer and manager of the new store, referred to as Herb & Spice Wellness Shop.  “It had become quite apparent that we were not able to meet the needs of our customer base with the small supplement and HABA section that we had at 375 Bank St.  An expansion of the existing space was not possible at the time, so when a location across the street became available, it was an opportunity we could not pass up.”

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The Vitamin Shop

The Vitamin Shop

Following one’s passion may not always turn out for the best, but there are two potential scenarios that can prove satisfying for the individual when that path is followed.

    In the first case, when pursuing the dream doesn’t end as originally hoped, many times the individual can say, “Well, at least I gave it my best effort,” or “I’m glad I tried it and got it out of my system,” or a similar sentiment.  Yes, there is some level of disappointment, but there is also something gained from the experience.

   In the second case, everything falls into place, the dream becomes a reality, and the pursuit of the passion can only be described in one way: mission accomplished.  

The latter description most accurately describes Bruce Reid, the owner and founder of The Vitamin Shop in Victoria, B.C.  The success of his store is recognized industry-wide, and The Vitamin Shop is considered by many as one of the top retail operations in our industry. (The store was the inaugural recipient of the CHFA Retailer of the Year West Award in 1998.)

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Rachelle-Bery health food store celebrates 30 years

Rachelle-Bery health food store celebrates 30 years

 Rachelle-Béry celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2014.  The iconic Montreal retailer is one of the city’s original health food stores, born at the quiet corner where Berri Street meets Rue Rachel in the city’s east end.

Some things have changed over the years. Founder Jacques Vangennoven is no longer the owner, having sold to grocery giant Sobeys in 2005.  And it’s no longer a single store: today, there are 10 large format Rachelle-Béry grocery stores and 20 natural health “boutiques” positioned in IGA grocery stores across the province of Quebec.   

   And yet, according to Rachelle-Béry’s managing director Daniel Dubé, there is one thing that has not changed.  “The heart and soul of the store has remained the same since the beginning.  The staff may have changed, but the spirit of Rachelle-Béry lives on.  They still keep in mind their number one priority: to serve our loyal customers.  Through the years, we have implemented new systems, introduced a flyer program, added new categories, but we have always kept in mind our mission: to provide natural and organic products, and always maintain a focus on good customer service. ”

   A big reason Rachelle-Béry has been able to continue to operate as an independent health food store has been Sobeys’ “hands-off” approach, says Daniel.  “Since the beginning, Sobeys has always managed this specialized business apart from its traditional administration.   It has been treated as a special, unique business model.  This has enabled us to do our things and develop our own image, our own mission and our own personality.”

   Shortly after the purchase, he says, there was a cultural impact.  “But with time and good faith, employee and customers saw that we would keep the same mission, the same objectives, carrying the same goods, natural and organic only.  And of course, we would still continue to build relationships between our staff and customers.”

   The real growth of Rachelle-Béry, Daniel says, began in 2008 with the opening of the first concept store, which now measures 6,000 sq. ft.  Previously, the Boulevard Saint-Laurent store in Montréal had 2,000 sq.ft.  We were at our next stage: a larger concept store. 

   “We then tested our new offering, our new image.  The majority of people liked it…and we noticed we were starting to attract new customers from the traditional grocery stores.  The same year, we bought Aliments Santé Laurier, in Quebec city, another icon.  We kept the same name, adding: member of the Rachelle-Béry’s group.

   Today, the concept stores come in two sizes: 6,000 sq. ft. and 10,000 sq. ft.  “Our past four stores have been just under 10,000 sq. ft. and our flagship in Boucherville is 11,000 sq. ft.” explains Daniel.  “In the future, we will base all new stores on either the 6,000 sq. ft. model or the 10,000 sq. ft. version.  It will depend which we use based on location and availability.”

   The boutique stores – which carry only supplements and natural HABA and no food – measure 1,000 sq. ft.

Flagship store

   The Rachelle-Béry in Boucherville on Montreal’s South Shore is the new flagship or concept store.  It is 11,000 sq. ft., the larger of the two concept models being used.  Daniel says a great deal of research went into the model.  “We took our management team to western Canada and the US northwest and we studied the best of the best and implemented what we felt was right for us.”

   Rachelle-Béry positions itself as a natural grocery store: food accounts for 70 per cent of floor space (40 per cent grocery, 30 per cent fresh), while the other 30 per cent is primarily supplements and HABA.  Half of the customers that come to Rachelle-Bery are new to the health food world. “We have to make them feel comfortable,” explains Daniel, “so we have a huge focus on food.  It is something that is common and familiar to them.”  The Boucherville store features half its floor space dedicated to fresh food in the form of produce, cheeses, dairy and the Bistro, where you can get everything from a light snack to a full meal.  The store is certified organic.  “It is a lot of work and it takes a lot of discipline, but it’s worth it.  I think it gives us an edge.”

   There are some outstanding natural health stores in the Montreal region and other parts of the province.  Plus, there is now an abundance of mass, pharmacy and grocery stores selling natural health products.  What is Rachelle-Béry doing to stay competitive and ahead of its competition?  “We always try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors,” explains Daniel.  “We are doing a lot of work in the category of fresh and ready-to-serve products.  We are Certified Organic by Ecocert Canada to indicate to customers that all our products made at store level are in fact 100 per cent organic.  We try new categories, like tea and spices, in bulk.  And…we always maintain a focus on good customer service.  We don’t want to be caught in a price war, so we need to differentiate ourselves.”

Committing to customers

   Two initiatives to further differentiate Rachelle-Béry from its competitors are its “Going Blue” commitment, and its Organics for Kids Club.  “Going Blue – which is about continually improving the range of sustainably harvested fish products we offer – has been great,” offers Daniel.  “Our customers are looking to find these types of commitments at store level, and tell us that it is the way to go.  Our Organics for Kids Club has also been very well-received by our customers.  They love it when we can influence their kids to eat better, and drink better.  It then becomes a way of eating better for the entire family.”

   Many natural health stores in Canada have had great success using flyers as a promotional vehicle.  Rachelle-Béry is no different, says Daniel.  In fact, flyers have been vitally important to the growth of the store.  “Flyers are our best form of promotion.  We send them every two weeks, mailed to homes in the neighbourhoods where we have stores.”  The flyers alternate in size, either four pages (food only), or a six-pager, which carries both food and supplement products.

  

Daniel says the flyers have been the best source for attracting new customers to Rachelle-Béry.  “Many of our new customers shop on price.  In the past, when they see the price of organic food, their feeling has often been, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive.’  So, we do offer good prices on our organic produce, so people can compare and hopefully try it.  And the new customers we get do have lots of questions, so we have to be trained and ready to answer them.”

   Rachelle-Béry has the entire training aspect in hand, says Daniel, thanks in a large part to Academy Rachelle-Béry, the in-house training program implemented in 2013.  “All our people from all of our stores are invited to follow training courses on natural health,” offered Daniel.  “Once a month, they have a full day of training on a medical system, given by one of our naturopaths.  After a year, they receive a certification Rachelle-Béry.  We currently have 35 people enrolled in the academy.  It’s a place where someone currently working as a cashier can learn and prepare them for another role, perhaps as a supplement consultant or advisor.  There are lots of promotion opportunities internally, thanks in large part to the course we offer, which is written by our staff naturopath.  It gives people the chance to grow professionally.”

More stores to come

   With 30 Rachelle-Béry stores now serving the people of Quebec, look for more to pop up in the near future, both boutiques and grocery stores.  “We just opened our newest grocery store on Ste-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal,” said Daniel.  “We are looking at opening another later this fall, also in Montreal.  Next year, we should open three more stores.  We are looking for opportunities in greater Montreal, greater Quebec City, and in the other major areas in the province.”  Daniel says the goal is to open three Rachelle-Béry grocery stores and three boutiques each year for the next three years.  And there is even talk about franchising the stores, starting later this year or in 2015.

   With three store sizes to choose from and two distinct models, Daniel says ultimately it comes down to serving customers in the best way possible.  “Being open-minded about what size store to use is all about getting as close to as many customers as possible,” says Daniel.  “We would rather open good sized stores near customers, rather than build huge super-sized stores near highways and expect customers to come to us.  We want to be as close to as many customers as possible.”  •   B.W. Cole

 

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Kardish opens store six in Ottawa

kardish health storeCarey and Robert Assaf, the owners of Kardish Health Food Centres in Ottawa, ON, have just opened their sixth store, this one in suburban Orleans, about 15 minutes east of the downtown core. The 2,500 sq. ft. store opened with little fanfare in a strip mall on a busy street in the New Year. Yet, reports Robert, it has been busy almost from the moment they opened the door. "There was just a buzz about the store coming into town. We didn't do any advertising...we just have a big sign out front. We're seeing between 80 and 90 customers a day. They're coming in, picking up a basket, and just filling it."

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Good Nature Health Foods Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Good Nature Health Foods Celebrates 20th Anniversary

It’s been 20 years since Donna Yamamoto spent some very long hours renovating her new retail space.  “I remember the hours - my knees and back were sore from scraping the glue off the floor to prepare for the new flooring.”  Donna was 31 years old with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and a majoring in psychology when she found the empty 632 square foot retail space for her store, Good Nature Health Foods in North Vancouver. 

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CNHR News Podcast

cnhr radio hour

News, Views and Happenings in the world of Canadian Natural Health.

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