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Healthy Alternatives

Kristi Kates - August 22nd, 2011
A Healthy Alternative in Petoskey
By Kristi Kates
“I think that sometimes people just buy an item because they saw it on television,” chuckles Healthy Alternatives founder/owner Wade Kelso, whose store has become a beacon of - as indicated by the store’s name - healthy products for people in the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area and beyond.
But these products aren’t things you’ll see hyped on the cable channels, with candy-colored sugar coating or questionable artificial flavors or additives; Kelso’s inventory consists of products aimed at keeping body and mind fit and well through the store’s selection of organic food and beverage items as well as vitamins, supplements, teas, and even beauty/cleansing products.
“The most common thing that I see people coming in for are simply too-aggressive promise of cures seen on commercials or read in articles,” Kelso says, “while what we are selling is really just improved nutrition and better quality of life.”

HELPING COMMUNITY
The store, which resides within Petoskey’s Toski-Sands Plaza, is brightly-lit and well-organized, with a wide array of intriguing products. The store combines Kelso’s interests in the well-being of the residents of his community and his strong business acumen.
“In the fall of 1996, I had just graduated from Central Michigan University with a BAA in public health and a minor in science, after a summer internship at the Community Health Education Center, which I had returned to Petoskey to complete,” Kelso explains. “I had always wanted to go into some sort of business, and the idea of opening a health food store had come up. I dove into researching and looking into the possibility of making this a reality.”
“I had the education in promoting public health, and a very strong interest in running a business,” he continues. “ I formally opened Healthy Alternatives in January 1997, at 23 years of age; it seemed to be a pretty good fit.”

HEALTHY CHANGES
Kelso’s customers definitely think so. The store, which began with a focus on more athletic-minded customers, has grown to encompass a broader range of people who have all manner of reasons to improve their diet or personal care, whether it’s recovering from an illness, losing weight, or simply making more positive, healthy changes in their lives.
“I’d say that I wasn’t exactly sure of what my niche would be (at first),” Kelso says, “but there seemed to be a very strong appreciation for my new store as customers quickly learned of it.”
Kelso slowly expanded his offerings from what he calls “a modestly stocked start-up health food store with an emphasis on sports nutrition” to the fully stocked store that Healthy Alternatives has become.
“I’d say my niche is definitely in the supplement area, and in guiding customers into selecting the proper high-quality items that we offer,” Kelso says, “customer service and educating our customers about our products are our forte.”

HAPPY CUSTOMERS
The top three products at Healthy Alternatives are supplements, organic foods, and what Kelso calls “clean ingredient” general merchandise such as body care and cleaning products, which he carefully selects to ensure they’re chemical-free and contain natural or organic ingredients. Burt’s Bees and Alba Botanical Products are a couple of favorites; natural makeup, aluminum-free deodorants, and facial cleansers are also good sellers.
“Increased interest in customers purchasing these products is based on the growing awareness of the poor quality of ingredients and chemical additives in mainstream products,” Kelso says.
Pretty much every vitamin and supplement - including herbal - that you could think of are lined up on Healthy Alternative’s shelves. A cooler is stocked with a variety of organic sodas and juices, bulk foods, and specialty butters and cheeses. A frozen foods section offers such products as the dairy-free So Delicious line of coconut milk ice crème treats and organic “healthy” microwaveable dinners; and a couple of aisles of grocery goods presents everything from Bob’s Red Mill natural flours to gluten-free cereals, organic snacks from cookies to chips, cooking and baking necessities, and such treats as raw honey, organic chocolate, and the popular Larabar energy bars.
Add to that a well-informed, interested crew to answer questions and make suggestions; they’re even quick to hop on the computer to look up information if they don’t know the answer.
“What makes our store unique is the quality and amount of help that we provide in selecting the correct products with our customers, and the quality of the products,” Kelso says.

Healthy Alternatives is located in the Toski-Sands Plaza at 2290 M-119 just outside of Petoskey, telephone 231-348-8390.
 
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