Goal behind natural market to get people healthy

NANAIMO: Island Natural hosts raffle, celebration to mark milestone of two decades in business

Casey Mitchell hitches a ride with Island Natural Market business partner Rhonda Lambert.

Casey Mitchell hitches a ride with Island Natural Market business partner Rhonda Lambert.

Island Natural Market arrives at a major milestone Saturday (Sept. 8), hitting its 20th year serving fresh organic products to Nanaimo and area residents.

The health food store, brainchild of Rhonda Lambert, first opened its doors in an approximately 1,850-square foot store on Bowen Road.

“I wanted to help people get healthy,” said Lambert. “So I cashed in my pension, got a grant for training, increased our mortgage and leapt.”

After dealing with her own health challenges through natural means, Lambert had a good idea what people were looking for and it wasn’t just supplements.

The goal of the store has always been to help people get healthy through good food choices.

“We’re pioneers in Nanaimo,” she said. “The first ones to source and present new ideas and products that cater to specific health needs like Celiac disease, food allergies or dietary restrictions.”

By 1998 however, that philosophy had created a large following and as Lambert said they had become too big to be small and too small to be big.

Knowing expansion was the only way to continue to serve her growing clientele, Lambert looked for investors.

Casey Mitchell, a regular customer, also had a past with health issues and was looking at a career change. When she heard Lambert sought investors for a bigger and better store, she bought in.

That was 13 years ago.

Though the industry has seen many changes and ups and downs over the years, their store has continued to grow. They are nicely settled into more than 4,000 square feet at 6560 Metral Drive and are enjoying the latest renovation that added more than 900 square feet to the supplement department.

“Our success is in no small part due to our staff,” said Lambert. “We have six people who had left for school or travel, but have eventually come back to work here.”

Mitchell says the key to their success, as a team is communication, honesty and using combined skills wisely. Lambert takes care of marketing and Mitchell handles staff training. They have people with knowledge in sports supplementation and holistic nutrition, purchasing, as well as those experienced in specialty diets and food preparation.

Lambert said when a customer learns from their naturopathic doctor that they must avoid certain foods, it can be overwhelming. And although the store’s staff is trained in specific fields, everyone is able and willing to help out.

“Any of our staff will take the time to walk the aisles and help find the right food choices,” Lambert said. “That’s what makes it exciting to come to work, knowing you’re going to help someone.”

For Lambert and Mitchell, the teamwork has paid off, offering more than a business partnership but also a friendship.

“It’s nice to share responsibility with someone you trust. When we need a break, we can spell each other off.” Mitchell said.

But there will be no spelling off for the big celebration, both Mitchell and Lambert will be at the store to raffle off a bike from Oak Bay Bikes worth $2,200, a Yoga Wellness Retreat Package for Two from Kingfisher Oceanside Retreat and several gift baskets.

For more information and location please visit www.islandnatural.ca.