In September Eli attended Expo East, the natural foods industry’s Eastern trade show, and was reminded once again what an amazing industry we’re part of. I told him I consider myself a pioneer and it got me thinking about my journey over the years and what I’m up to these days.
A little over 33 years ago when I bought the one year old Healthy Living, I really was a pioneer! There was no “natural foods industry” so to speak….only a ragtag bunch of hippies who believed there were other ways to eat. Our stores were tiny and we ran them the way people who have no business experience run things. I started out very much “on the floor.” I stocked shelves, unloaded trucks, made sandwiches, ran the register, helped customers, went to farms, swept floors, stayed for hours, “managed” my staff of 1, and tiptoed into daringly expanding my inventory. I came too tired most days to “play store” which is what Nina often requested. Years later, I found myself “upstairs.” That meant I was writing copy, managing people, watching cash flow…and spending less and less time “on the floor” where I had started out and learned to love the ebb and flow of the business.
Now i’ve come full circle and I feel like I’ve returned to my pioneer roots; I am an “on the floor” owner once again, doing all the things i started out doing and what I’m best at. This week I spent a whole day in our produce department, stocking cases, doing displays, using a price gun to mark apples, talking to staff, helping guests. I spent many hours bagging groceries with our awesome Front End crew. I worked in the back room, helping in receiving, sweeping and compacting cardboard, talking to truck drivers, and unloading inventory. I did 2 big seasonal house wares displays. I wandered around my store, talking to guests. It was the perfect week for a pioneer and that’s where you’ll find me these days.
I’m leaving the upstairs stuff to my two business partners, my kids Eli and Nina because I’m at my best when I’m doing what I love which is being busy playing store.
Katy Lesser founded Healthy Living in 1986. Since then, a lot has changed! Now she owns (and runs) the business with her two kids, Eli and Nina. The demand for natural and organic foods has grown too! Since 1986 the South Burlington location has expanded twice, and in 2013 Healthy Living Saratoga Springs, NY opened.