My First Health Food Store Experience

My First Health Food Store Experience

by founder Melanie Skelton

I’ve visited many health food stores over the years. I never thought I would open one--and in my hometown--until about five years ago. However, the first health food store I visited was nowhere close to home. It was in the Netherlands.

As a young adult I was a missionary in the Netherlands and Belgium. During this time I became friends with a Dutch couple, Astri and Rene’, who would often invite us for dinner. I loved eating with them, but the food was different from anything I had ever experienced. They cooked with a lot of vegetables and often with tofu. It always tasted amazing. Until that experience I never knew that tofu could taste amazing. Although I don’t know that I had actually tasted it before that point.

We loved visiting their apartment, which was as uniquely beautiful as this amazing couple. The buildings in Holland (which is part of the Netherlands) tend to be tall and narrow. When we entered the building where they lived, we would hike up the stairs and then there was a trap door that lifted to let us finish our ascent into their apartment. When they closed the trap door it was kind of like closing the front door of their apartment.

There were many new experiences in our friendship with them. One of these was the world of a health food store, where Astri worked. We loved to visit her there. I had no idea this would someday be my world.

It was a cute little shop with bulk herbs, supplements and herbal teas. There were organic vegetables and I believe a small deli counter with specialty foods for those eating a particular diet.

It had that smell.

You know the one. A mix of herbs that can only exist when you bring all of those lovely, natural smells into one place, as happens in a health food store.

Looking back I can guess what else was there that I didn’t ever tune into. Things like homeopathic remedies and natural skin care products. Products that would be answers someday, but at that time I didn’t yet know the questions. I hadn’t yet experienced cancer and questioned the ingredients in my foods and personal care products. At the time I knew nothing of these options that would become so important to me in my life. All I knew was the loveliness of the smells and the atmosphere in this shop where we visited our dear friend.

There was something fascinating about that shop and the lifestyle Astri and Rene' lived. They enjoyed the simple things about this life. Even though they lived in a country that is highly populated, they found ways to keep focused on the simplicity of life.

There were other experiences that followed during my stay in the Netherlands and then Belgium that had an impact on me as well. I may share those experiences in other posts. Looking back, though, I realize how much my time in Europe had an influence on helping to prepare me to ask the questions about my health that would someday lead me to opening my own shop with those same kinds of beautiful smells and experiences.