The Chemainus Health Food Store is not your average business. Not only do they house a variety of supplements, eco-conscious products, nutritious food, and fresh produce that you would come to expect; but their dedication to the customers truly set the bar far beyond others. Owners Lulu and Sherry are driving force of knowledge and genuine care that you don't see often in businesses today. That is why customers come from Parksville to the mainland when they can, and locals come daily from every direction. The enticement is clear, if it isn't just for their jovial nature and atmosphere, it is because the customers trust the personal advice and direction this tight knit team can deliver.
Their business mantra is simple. Help those in need, offer a large variety of products, get to know their customers, pay people fairly, reduce as much plastic as possible and ensure products meet those same standards. Not so simple, but this team seems to be able to embody their beliefs and deliver time and time again. From razors that use recycled yogurt cups in lieu of plastic, to their chocolates and coffees, which are all fair trade; these important ideals are upheld.
When speaking to Lulu recently, she mentioned the thing that they enjoy the most about owning a business in a small town, “It’s our customers, its watching a new family grow from pregnancy to school aged children, or seeing people with day to day challenges and helping them through it.” These two have the innate ability to see individuals through eyes that have changed over the years growing older with the community – Lulu jokes, “so much so, that both Sherry and I now need glasses”. But, she is right; with all of that time and interaction of watching someone grow no matter what age they may be, there is an ability to truly know that customer, superseding a typical business to consumer relationship. Customers do not need to explain time and time again to strangers what their ailments are, no matter how personal in nature they may be. The staff not only remembers but care far beyond the hours of 9:30 – 5:30. Lulu notes that they could not be where they are today without Sonja and Carmen, longtime employees who are just as dedicated as the two of them. That is maybe what the true key to success is for this business. The heart of this business finds owners and team members who more than staff; they are trusted confidants who take the time, energy and knowledge to make peoples lives truly better in Chemainus. A path that was too good for either Lulu and Sherry to pass up when the opportunity first presented itself.
Janice, the owner of the Ladysmith Health Food Store and Founder of Chemainus Health Food Store, had the idea that if she could find a location across from the theatre, she was going to open a business in Chemainus. And that she did. But, after a year of operating two businesses Janice felt the strain of needing to be in two places at once. Approaching Sherry and Lulu, her dedicated employees, the discussion of them purchasing the business from her was born. Without hesitation, these two jumped feet first back into the community they had left behind. Having had jobs years before at a small food store – in the building that is now Afsari – they were egger to come back into Chemainus’ folds. It’s not only their business that became intertwined in Chemainus, it is their lives as well. Lulu a vivacious photographer, hiker, and travel dreamer raised her son in this community. Sherry and avid gardening and Chemainus resident, spends her days off walking her dog and puttering around town greeting customers and friends. For years these two have enjoyed being successful small town business owners and community members. But things were not always so idyllic. Eight years ago they encountered what some would call a make or break year. Within a period of twelve months they faced three major obstacles that tested their friendship and business. The fist of the series was a freak accident – a car drove into their store demolishing a part of the wall, product and shelving. Not soon after the repair, a leak saw too a large portion of the ceiling being removed, closing sections and disrupting the flow once again. But none of that came close to the most challenging thing they would face, a fire that brought destruction in its wake. But yet, these two persevered. The community rallied around them and made sure they felt the support they themselves had been giving for so many years.
Now, with ten years and an expansion behind them, their friendship and business is stronger than ever with team members who are absolutely amazing. Their Anniversary marked their busiest day in history and the community once again rallied in droves of celebration. These two without a doubt speak volumes about the wonderful Community Chemainus is and the power of personal interaction a business can have. Chemainus Health Food store is so much more than its four walls, it truly is the heart of living in a small town.
Chemainus Health Food Store
9738 Willow St