I started out in the health food industry working part time in one of the busiest Health food shops in Ireland back in 2002. Back then it was just something to do in the evenings after my real job finished.
But I soon caught the bug. Yes the bug (pun intended), because there is a buzz to the Health food industry, a real feeling you are helping people. A sense you are empowering them through dietary choice and lifestyle advice.
Back in 2002, it was my good fortune to be working in the Hopsack where the owners Jimmy and Erica Murray instilled this ethos into all of us. For me they did much more, letting me run the Hopsack and giving me an insight into a very special industry. I got to know a lot of amazing people from Hopsack staff, suppliers, customers and therapists.
A new beginning
2006 was a very big year for me. In February we moved into our first home, in June I married the beautiful Mary and in September I opened a Health Shop in Athy. I fumbled through the first couple of years in business, learning as I went along. In 2008 my landlord approached me and said the people above the shop were moving out. So I rented the two floors above the shop. The Healthy Living Centre was born. Now in 2014, we have a studio where we run Yoga, Pilates, Core Strength, Baby Massage, Pregnancy Yoga and Meditation Classes. We also have four treatment rooms where we do about ten different types of Massage as well as Kinesiology, Allergy Testing, Amatsu, Acupuncture, Reiki, Counselling, Homeopathy and Reflexology.
Just like back in the Hopsack all those years ago, I am very lucky to be working with some amazing people that are experts in their areas.
Last year I tried being a vegetarian for Vegetarian month, just to see what it was like. I can’t see myself eating meat anymore. I feel much healthier being meat free. (Check out Bill Clinton, of all people, on YouTube talking about being a Vegan). The same goes for Gluten. I’ve become the nightmare dinner guest. But this lifestyle feels right for me.
The customer is King
Our shop ethos is to be friendly and helpful to all our customers. We stock lots of foods that are sugar free, gluten free, dairy free and meat free. We have a large range of vitamins and an ever growing body care range. Over the last couple of years our gift section has grow organically (pun intended). We have gifts for all occasions. But we have always stocked what the customer has looked for.
Experience and training
The best thing about my job is that it’s more than a job; it’s a way of living. I’m not saying I’m squeaky clean but the advice I’m giving on the shop floor everyday is either from my own experience or my customers experience over the last twelve years. We also work with the IAHS (Irish Association of Health Stores) who give it’s member stores great training. We use protocols to make our shop a safe environment to buy health foods and vitamins. There are certificates and Diplomas in Health Food Retailing that are very comprehensive training for staff on the shop floor.
There are a lot of changes happening in our industry at the moment. We are losing a lot of our herbal remedies due to over regulation. But I’m sure there will always be ways to help people optimise their health using foods, vitamins and herbs.