Health food stores in the United States go all the way back to 1869. It was then that Thomas Martindale opened his first store in Oil City, Pennsylvania. Some of the first vegetables available in that store included radishes and lettuce. Later, Martindale moved his store to Philadelphia where he concentrated on foods for diabetics, specifically advertising the importance of avoiding sugary foods. Like health food stores all over the world today, Martindale’s store offered fresh, raw vegetables and worked to educate the public on eating whole foods more than processed foods.
The first health food store in Alabama opened in 1968 in Huntsville and is still open today. Pearly Gates food began as a food co-op run by civil rights activist and educator, Myrna Copeland. Along with offering many natural food health options, Pearly Gates may have the largest selection of spices in the country. Now there are many health food options all over our state. From big corporations like Whole Foods in Birmingham and Montgomery, to small mom-and-pop shops and holistic stores and even farmer’s markets popping up in even the smallest towns, the health food store craze is apparent.
Now that wellness has gone mainstream, one might think that the retail forecast for health food stores will be with online sales exclusively, but that is not necessarily the case. In several studies and surveys, it appears that most customers want to consult with their local herbalist or health food store employee before buying a new food or natural health product. Because many health choices have direct correlation with lifestyle changes, customers feel the need for coaching and support from a local expert. Just as in the early days of health food stores, people want to know they are making the right buying choices along with health management suggestions.
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