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Here's an article about us that was published in the May 2014 issue of Vitamin Retailer Magazine!

Behind The Counter

 Behind the Counter is a monthly column profiling successful natural product retailers.

Built by Customers
Kathy Winniford, owner of Parkway Health Foods, grew up in a family that was focused on natural health. “My dad and mom were always interested in health,” Winniford said. “As children, we grew up with seeing a naturopathic doctor and a chiropractor, which in those days in the 50s and 60s wasn’t necessarily the main thing people did.”

The family turned their love of health into a career change when Winniford’s father decided he was ready for something new after farming for twenty years. The family purchased a health food store and went from daily farm life to living and breathing retail. “[My parents] were always in a stage of learning and immersed themselves rapidly,” she said. At the time, Winniford was in college, but would come home to help in the store during her summer vacations.
“When I came home from college I would work with them, so that’s how I learned it all from the inside out,” she said. “I learned from the store manager and got a wealth of information that was absorbed while I was working.”

At one point in the 70s, the family owned three stores, but eventually went down to one, the current Parkway Health Foods, formerly called Parkway Natural Foods, which opened in 1976. Winniford’s parents owned the store until 2004, when her father leased the business to Winniford and her late husband. Winniford currently works alongside her six employees and full-time manager.

In the Aisles
Parkway Health Foods is a 3,000- square-foot store that is “built by the customers,” according to Winniford. “They tell me what they want and I bring it in,” she said. “It’s a customer driven place. I try to listen to them and if they need something, I do my best to get it.” For example, McMinnville, OR has a lot of retired residents, so Winniford is sure to stock her joint health section for the many customers who come in looking for supplements in this category, such as black cherry concentrate.

The first aisle of the store is dedicated to gluten free, since Winniford knows many people in the town are dedicated to a gluten-free diet. The middle aisle, which she calls “the driving force of the store,” offers a wide selection of vitamins. Parkway carries all the major companies, such as Solaray and NOW, as well as the store’s brand and several other local brands.

The next aisle features herbs, and offers the largest variety of bulk herbs in the area. “People like the fact that they can come here and get whole organic herbs to make whole teas or whatever they are trying to make,” said Winniford.

The store also features a baby section, a canned goods section, HBA, an array of essential oils, and a juice counter that serves lunch as well as smoothies. “We make fresh carrot juice and homemade soup from scratch, and it’s always vegan and gluten-free,” Winniford noted.

Friendly Competition
The only other local health food store that would be considered competition is the nearby Harvest Fresh. The store is a bit different than Parkway as it caters to deli and a big lunch crowd, but it does offer vitamins. Instead of feeling any pressure from this local retailer, Winniford said she works with the store to better her business.

“We don’t call them competitors,” she said. “They are a competitor on a friendly term. When they don’t have something, they call me, and we send customers back and forth. We just want to help the client; that’s our bottom line.”

Educating the Customer
Education is important to Winniford and her staff, who all work hard to help customers understand what products do and why they might want to try them. The store has a library section, where customers can sit and read or buy books, as well as magazines and fliers.

Winniford also goes the extra step to educate herself by visiting the local company plants to see how everything works. “I try to go to local places and see the plants in operation and learn what I can because it helps me pass on information to my customers,” she said. Winniford has visited many local companies, including Barlean’s, which is located nearby in Ferndale, WA.

Twice a year, the store hosts a customer appreciation day that allows vendors to come in and talk about their products so customers can sample and ask questions. But, according to Winniford, the staff at Parkway appreciates their customers every day, and they do anything they can to guide customers to better health. “Our desire to be of service is what brings customers back.”

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