Julie Beaver, the store manager of Health Wise in Welland, ON, has a funny story she likes to tell. “I remember an elderly man walking by and poking his head in our store and saying, ‘Why would anyone ever need a store this big that sells hippie food?’ His prediction was that we would be out of business in two months.”...
Julie Beaver, the store manager of Health Wise in Welland, ON, has a funny story she likes to tell. "I remember an elderly man walking by and poking his head in our store and saying, 'Why would anyone ever need a store this big that sells hippie food?' His prediction was that we would be out of business in two months."
Well, he was wrong. That was 11 years ago, recalled Julie, who has been on staff for over 14 years, at the time when Health Wise completed it’s first expansion, from 1,100 square feet to 2,792 square feet,. Today, that gentleman is a regular customer and Health Wise is 20 years old and still growing, as the staff gears up for another expansion to help better serve the residents of Welland and the greater Niagara region.
Home to over 50,000, Welland is best known for sharing its name with the Welland Canal, a major shipping waterway which links Lakes Erie and Ontario. Known as the “Rose City,” Welland is home to the Seaway Mall, which is where you will find the big, bright, bold and beautiful Health Wise, a health food store that is about to get bigger and better.
Recently, Julie answered some questions about the upcoming expansion and what the changes will mean for the store and its customers.
What will be the focus of this expansion?
The entire 1,536 sq. ft. to be added will be grocery. We have had such a big demand in our area for the addition of organic meats, produce, dairy and cheeses. Currently, we have two double door freezers. With the expansion, we will have five. We expect to expand our selection of gluten-free, vegan and organic products. Carla Smith (who has been on staff for three years) will be the new grocery manager for the store. She is a vegan shopper with a passion for organics and is currently enrolled in the Alive Advanced Holistic Nutrition course. I think she was the perfect fit, as it is an extension of her lifestyle.
Why the expanded focus on food?
It is needed, and the demand is there. People are realizing that their health cannot be controlled by a bottle of pills. Healthy eating is the first step to a healthy person. If you look at the big diseases that are responsible for half of the Canadian deaths, they are all influenced by diet.
How do you plan to raise food sales?
In small towns like ours, sometimes you have to drive to several places just to get your basic healthy groceries. For example, you may find organic chicken two cities over. So providing access to it will be the first step. We also plan to work with local farmers to bring more awareness to buying and consuming locally grown and prepared foods.
What new products specifically are you planning to add?
Well our freezer capacity and refrigeration capacity will more than triple. The addition of organic beef, chicken and seafood will be entirely new. We have tried produce on a small scale before with just a few bags of carrots and onions. With the expansion, customers will find a large variety of organic fruits and vegetables along with organic cheeses and milk. More varieties of grains, flours and baking supplies will also be added.
Do you plan to stay open during the entire project?
We will have to close for a brief period of time. The store we are in now needs a new floor, so we will be doing all the work at once. We will have a small temporary store for a week so we can still service our customers in some way.
How did the economic downturn affect welland and the store?
Welland’s economy was hit pretty hard last year. I think the loss of the high-paying factory jobs was hard on the city in general. With our store, we weathered the storm pretty well. I think a lot of people put preventing disease and staying healthy as more of a priority then they did before. Sickness is far more expensive then living healthy and staying healthy.
Did you have to change anything because of the economy?
I found myself paying closer attention to my supplier’s specials and passing them along. We did a lot of case stack deals and passed a lot of “buy-one, get-one” specials to the customers.
How would you describe Health Wise?
To me, it is like home. I always have a sense of peace and relief when I come back after I have been away for a few days. I know our customers appreciate the atmosphere as well. They love to come and shop and sit down and read one of our many books at the juice bar. We have one of the best selections around, and in the near future, that is just going to get better and better. •
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