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But one store led to another a...

published time:2012-11-12 Tahoma :HT-home


"But one store led to another and another and another," he said. 
  Better Health had six stores by the fall of 2003 before it acquired another 10 with its purchase of Wixom-based Vitamin Outlet for $4.5 million from founder David Farber. Since then, it's been consolidating the stores and moving them to larger locations with room to add organic groceries.
  Today, the company -- which claims to be the largest independent, family-owned natural food store chain in the state -- operates 11 stores in metro Detroit and two in Lansing.
  Eight are full market stores with produce and other groceries in addition to vitamins, supplements and other natural health and beauty aids. Handelsman is converting the remainder to full market stores at a rate of about two each year, with an investment of $400,000-$500,000 to equip and stock each. 
  Better Health's Novi, East Lansing and Bloomfield Hills stores also include in-store cafés where shoppers grab organic sandwiches, soups, salads, raw juices, smoothies and wheat grass shots.
  The company earlier this year opened the full market location in Bloomfield Hills, and it's converting its Taylor store to a larger space in Southgate in November, Handelsman said. It has plans to convert stores in Southfield, Ann Arbor and Grosse Pointe to larger sites. Each of the remaining five stores will include a café.
  "Once those are converted, the next page would be to open new stores in markets we aren't serving currently in metro Detroit and perhaps on the west side of the state and in Ohio," Handelsman said. In addition to expanding its offerings, Handelsman is spending about $1 million each year on print, radio and TV advertising and has a "pretty aggressive" rewards program with discounts and frequent buyer awards to keep customers coming back, he said.
  Specifically, advertisements broadcast during the "Dr. Oz" show have "driven a lot of people into our stores," Handelsman said
Better Health currently employs about 160, but that count is growing as revenue rises, he said.
  The company expects to add about 20 percent more jobs, or 32 new positions, in its expanded stores this year, Handelsman said.
New Jersey-based Vitamin Shoppe Inc. (NYSE: VSI), which has more than 500 locations across the country, operates 12 stores in Michigan -- 10 in metro Detroit and two on the state's west side selling vitamins and supplements. But there are few Michigan-based chains selling both organic foods as well as vitamins, supplements, and natural health and beauty aids in the state, Handelsman said.
Many of the locally based stores selling vitamins, supplements, health and beauty aids and organic groceries are standalone stores, some in business for decades.
  Nutri-Foods Inc. in Royal Oak saw a bit of a downturn in recent years because of the economy, said store manager Judy Ferguson, who did not give specific revenue figures.
  "But we are blessed because we've been here since 1937; we have a really loyal clientele ... (and) have been able to keep our heads above water," she said.
  Some of the smaller, local companies in the.