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Retailer roundtable: 8 achievements natural retailers made in 2023

Despite the difficulties of 2023, natural and organic products retailers have several accomplishments to be proud of. Here are eight examples.

Melaina Juntti

January 30, 2024

6 Min Read
Retailer roundtable: 8 achievements natural retailers made in 2023
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Though independent natural and organic products retailers faced plenty of challenges in 2023, many of these resilient, innovative businesses also racked up major wins. Whether they worked toward opening a new store, stepped up their commitment to locally produced food or simply shifted to a healthier mindset companywide, their 2023 achievements are laudable and inspiring.

Read eight success stories from leading independents.

What was your store’s biggest accomplishment or advancement in 2023? 

Emily Garner, R.N., CNHP, of Garner’s Natural Life in Columbia, Greenville and Lexington, South Carolina

Emily Garner, R.N., CNHP, of Garner’s Natural Life in Columbia, Greenville and Lexington, South Carolina

One accomplishment that stands out is that each of our stores really listened to the community and what it was asking for in terms of supplements. We try to bring in those products and meet whatever their needs may be, so each store looks a bit different depending on what that community has asked for.

Another big accomplishment is that, because we had a lot of customers asking us to do education classes, we started offering them monthly at our Lexington store toward the end of last year. We’ve had a DIY elderberry syrup class and a DIY bath salt class so far, and we’re pairing up with a couple of companies for the next sessions. Terry Naturally is one of the educators coming to help, and it’ll be a combination of lecture-style and DIY, showing people how to make herbal remedies.

Related:Retailer roundtable: Overcoming the biggest challenges of 2023

Susie Kawamoto and Diana Hicks, co-owners of MaMa Jean’s Natural Market in Springfield, Missouri

Susie Kawamoto and Diana Hicks, co-owners of MaMa Jean’s Natural Market in Springfield, Missouri

In 2021, we made a strategic decision to partner with GRITT Business Coaching, a renowned consulting company specializing in business strategy and employee engagement. This collaboration has proven to be instrumental in our journey toward achieving remarkable business accomplishments, such as increasing our overall gross profit by 3% in 2023. Through their expertise and guidance, we have been able to refine and solidify our core values that drive our organization, enhancing our internal culture and strengthening our brand. All of these were key accomplishments of 2023.

Jeremy Laurange, director of retail at Hawthorne Valley Farm Store in Ghent, New York

Jeremy Laurange, director of retail at Hawthorne Valley Farm Store in Ghent, New York

In 2023, one of our most significant achievements was the successful implementation and expansion of a Double-Up Food Bucks program, launched in collaboration with the Field and Fork Network. This initiative aligns seamlessly with our commitment to delivering top-tier food to our customers.

Through this program, we have witnessed substantial progress, boasting over 60 active participants and contributing over $5,000 to support community members in accessing the freshest food available. By matching every dollar spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, up to $20 per day, we have enhanced the quality of our offerings and reinforced our dedication to providing the finest products to those who need them most. This accomplishment underscores our ongoing efforts to make a meaningful impact on the well-being of our community.

Erin Lynch, director of operations at Rosemont Market & Bakery, with seven locations across Maine

Erin Lynch, director of operations at Rosemont Market & Bakery, with seven locations across Maine  

As a small, family-run business spread over seven locations, we are always improving communication and alignment between our stores and our category managers. Instituting an actionable, biweekly field guide has helped ensure that we are marketing, merchandising and communicating the products and strategies that both build our business and keep us focused on our mission to expand our relationships with local farmers and producers. The addition of a field guide helped us increase sales of Maine-grown and -produced items to 61% of our sales!

Anna, Luke and Nick Masiero, co-owners of Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Anna, Luke and Nick Masiero, co-owners of Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, Massachusetts

We completed a major expansion of one of our two locations, doubling the square footage and adding an in-house bakery, kitchen and café. The end of 2023 also marked the retirement of our co-founders after 45 years in the stores. With that milestone comes the start of the second generation of ownership. We’ve been preparing for this transition for several years, so the moment feels like a major accomplishment in and of itself!

Rhonda Penecale, owner of Bunn’s Natural Foods in Southampton, Pennsylvania

Rhonda Penecale, owner of Bunn’s Natural Foods in Southampton, Pennsylvania

Our biggest accomplishment, achievement and improvement was our ability to take a reflective step back and adjust our mindset. There was so much we couldn’t control: late deliveries, mis-picks, out of stocks, etc. We learned to be less stressed in those moments. We learned to be calm and nimble if we were shorthanded. We learned to diffuse a tough situation with humor and grace. Our talented team maintained a steady focus, positive outlook and the ability to be present for our customers and each other.

Jon Roesser, general manager of Weavers Way Co-op in Philadelphia, Ambler and (soon) Germantown, Pennsylvania

Jon Roesser, general manager of Weavers Way Co-op in Philadelphia, Ambler and (soon) Germantown, Pennsylvania

Our biggest accomplishment for 2023 was all the progress made in getting our new store in Germantown open, but it won't actually open until March. Outside of that, we rolled out a very successful bowl program out of our Ambler store, featuring various made-to-order bowls with price points between $4.99 and $9.99. Our goal was to create a program that would be nutritious, delicious and affordable. So far, so good!

Deserie Tommaro, left, and Kristy Blomquist, right, purchased Betty Lou’s Health last year from Betty Lou, center.

Deserie Tommaro, co-owner of Clove Health & Wellness in Duluth, Minnesota

The biggest thing was the change in ownership and Betty Lou’s Health Foods becoming Clove Health & Wellness. [New co-owner Kristy Blomquist] and I had become certified holistic nutritionists and certified functional nutrition counselors. We weren’t necessarily looking for a business, but this one sort of fell into our lap. Betty Lou was ready to retire after running the store for 28 years, so we stepped in as the new owners in August 2023 and slowly began doing our own renovations.

We have kept the same quality vitamins and supplements that Betty Lou carried but are also researching and adding in our own, along with clean organic spa, wellness and sauna items. Neither of us had any retail experience. We were stay-at-home moms for the last 15 years, so a big accomplishment for us was starting a business after staying home for long. So far it has been really fun.

About the Author(s)

Melaina Juntti

Melaina Juntti is a longtime freelance journalist, copy editor and marketing professional. With nearly two decades of experience in the natural products industry, she is a frequent contributor to Nutrition Business Journal, Natural Foods Merchandiser and NewHope.com. Melaina is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and is passionate about hiking, camping, fishing and live music. 

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