Aliments Naturels Pleine Lune sits in a very prominent location in the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. Perched confidently on the southeast corner of two busy roads, it presents a very impressive visual to passersby and customers alike.
Pleine Lune (“Full Moon” in English) may not have always had such a high profile physical location, but it has always held an important position in the hearts and minds of its customers since it founding. Its longevity is proof of that. In 2018, Pleine Lune celebrates a major milestone: 40 years of serving the people of this city of 100,000, located roughly 40 kilometres to the south of Montreal’s south shore.
It was five years ago, says owner Isabelle Lareau, that Pleine Lune took a major step in its evolution, when it moved to its current location at the busy corner where Du Séminaire Boulevard North meets Rue Saint-Michel. “For many years, we were located in a mall. It wasn’t very big…maybe 800 square feet. But customers could find almost everything they wanted there – some bulk products, food supplements and a small quantity of natural food products. We were adjacent to a reflexology clinic which helped both of our businesses.”
The new location – featuring an exterior of stone, cement and glass, and coloured in earthy browns – was an immediate hit. “We built a very beautiful 5,500 square foot, two-story building,” says Isabelle. “This helped raise the profile of the store because we are at the intersection of two of the city’s busiest commercial roadways.”
For Isabelle, there was great personal satisfaction in creating the new building and then moving the business there. She had played an important role in the store for over 30 years. Pleine Lune was founded in 1978 and in 1986, Isabelle’s parents bought the business. Isabelle began working at the store the same year, and in 1997, she became the sole owner.
The first thing she did as owner was…well, she didn’t really do too much. At that time, she was more interested in really studying the business to see what the priorities were. “I made a few changes at the staff level, but for the most part, there was not much that needed to be done. When I became owner, our mission did not change. The objective remained the same – offer our customers quality products and personalized service.”
Over the years, however, a move to a larger location was inevitable. “The demand came from our customers. So many of them were asking us for a bigger variety of products at affordable prices.” Isabelle commissioned a search for a new location and had the building built to her specifications.
For the first four years in the new location, the second floor was used primarily for gluten-free products. Everything else was located on the store’s main floor. During this time period, Isabelle began debating alternative ideas.
“For a few years, I was contemplating moving the supplements and our consulting department to the second floor but I had some reservations about it. I didn’t know how the customers would react to this change, even if the store was equipped with an elevator.”
Finally, in October of 2016, after months of study and deliberation, Isabelle decided to go for it and move the supplement department upstairs. Today, she has no regrets about the move. “It was indeed a great decision. The customers were completely satisfied and the space is used to its full potential. Of a staff of 16, six are naturopaths, so creating a space where they could enjoy a higher level of confidentiality with customers was important. Customers feel more at ease consulting with a naturopath on the second floor. They feel a sense of privacy. We have also noticed that customers take longer to shop and, as a result, more purchases are made.” Isabelle also moved the health and beauty department to the second floor, leaving the main floor for fresh produce, fruits and vegetables, local products, teas and cleaning products.
Even though the building was only four years old, Isabelle though it would be nice to do a “re-fresh” of the store to coincide with the supplements moving upstairs. Wood laminate floors and a brilliant use of barn board in certain spots have created a warm, friendly space. These are accented by spot lighting, decorative touches (e.g. baskets, art work, vases and plants) and colourfully painted walls.
One of the most interesting design elements in the store is a “look-through:” an opening above the cash area that allows customers to look down onto the first floor from the supplement department.
“I am very proud of the final result of the building,” said Isabelle. “The designer understood my needs. The modern style and rustic barn look blend perfectly together.”
Now that the moves and renovations of the past few years are behind her, Isabelle says it’s back to the basics, to the things that brought Pleine Lune success from the beginning. “For the future of this store, the plan remains the same. We want to evolve with the market, to be able to adapt to our customer’s needs and offer our employees a place of work that is pleasant and motivating.” •