Natural Foods Merchandiser
How one natural products retailer 'juiced' lemons into lemonade

How one natural products retailer 'juiced' lemons into lemonade

When Jeff and Gigi Fykes encountered challenging times, they re-imagined their natural products retail business while remaining focused on their mission.

Many health food retailers pride themselves on making a difference in their communities, whether it’s through education, strategic partnerships or simply raising awareness about healthy new products. When husband-and-wife team Jeff and Gigi Fykes closed their retail storefront and opened a smoothie bar in a local hospital, they found themselves on an unconventional path to achieving all three.

After serving Virginia’s Hampton Roads region for 16 years, The Healthy Connection health food store and juice bar found itself closing. Owner Jeff Fykes, with a background in computer support, was dropping off his resume at a local hospital when he spotted an empty cafe space in the building. It turned out the hospital was looking for a smoothie bar to fill the space. “And ours was a healthy one,” Fykes said. “What do people want in a hospital? Something healthy!”

Just like that, the couple’s mission was reimaged as The Healthy Connection’s Smoothies Santé, a juice and smoothie bar. And they can hardly keep up with demand.

The reason? The Healthy Connection might be in a different location, but the couple is staying true to the same values they had in the retail store. Not only are the fruit smoothies all natural and organic with no ice, dairy, added sugar or pre-mixes, but any variety can be “boosted” with flax seed oil, super green food, protein powder or other healthy add-ins for enhanced nutrition. The Fykes also continue their popular Juicing Boot Camp to educate shoppers about juicing for health.

The rewards are sweet. On-the-books benefits include around-the-clock security, decreased overhead, a manageable footprint and a captive audience interested in health. But most importantly, the Fykes reach and educate a whole new customer base of more than 800 hospital employees, patients and visitors, in addition to loyal shoppers from the store’s heyday who found him online or through social media.

At the end of the day, The Healthy Connection has found a way to stay true to its mission and turn lemons into its popular Santé Lemonade. “It’s not just about the product. Our passion is meeting people’s needs,” Fykes said. “That’s what drove us—people’s hearts. That’s my wife’s vision and that’s my vision. The care we give at the hospital is the same care we gave at our store. That is what drives us.”

We’ll toast a smoothie to that.

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