Just 13 months after opening their first store – the Best Health Food Shop, in Shoreham-by-Sea – Len Glenville and Melanie Beard have opened a second store, in Tunbridge Wells.
There’s a strong family link to the Kent town. It’s where Len’s mother, Dr Marilyn Glenville has her clinic and Natural Health Practice (NHP) business – and it’s also Mel’s home town.
She explains: “I’ve lived here all my life. So we always wanted to come back here and have a second store in the town. And we also thought that Tunbridge Wells is a town that would welcome a new health store. And this is an area where we particularly wanted to be, so we held out until something came up in this road.
“This is an up-and-coming area, just outside of the town centre. We particularly wanted to be a local store, and integrate into the community. In a more residential area you have a better chance to get to know people, get to know their names – in the same way we also do in Shoreham.”
Len comments: “Shoreham is a seaside town of course. So it’s more visitor focused. Again, it’s a very health-conscious community – but it’s also very different demographic. I think they both work for us, and I think we can offer something different to both communities.”
The new store is a bright, contemporary take on the traditional health store, or wholefood store. A fresh colour palette combines bright whites with a soft dove grey, while salvaged wood shelving and till counter add warmth and natural colours. Despite being a compact 400sqft the store features an impressive bulk foods dispenser bay, and an Ecover refill station. There’s wide range of pre-packs (suppled by Len and Mel’s close neighbour in Shoreham, Infinity Foods), dried goods, general grocery, teas, home-baking foods and free-from products. There’s a good chilled offer too, with a strong emphasis on vegan and vegetarian reflecting current high demand. The supplements section includes a full range of NHP products and a tightly edited range of other premium supplement brands.
So, what was thinking behind the look and feel of the new store – what were the pair hoping to achieve? Mel again: “When Len was working in London I used to spend my days in Whole Foods and Planet Organic and places like that, and I saw them as a more modern approach to health food retail. So we wanted to make things a bit more 21st-century, a bit brighter, and add a contemporary twist.
“In terms of the products mix, as with Shoreham, we wanted this to be primarily a food store. We’ve introduced more supplements, but for us it is very much about healthy diet and lifestyle, with food very much the foundation. We wanted to bring in all the food that we eat – that Marilyn has recommended, as well – and make the supplements side of the mix more just that, supplementary, rather than the primary focus.”
Len adds: “We’ve got backgrounds in both the food and supplements sides of the business. I was brought up on pretty much all of the foods we have here. I know all of it, I’ve eaten all of it! Similarly, Mel’s worked in Marilyn’s clinic – and at NHP – on the supplement side. So we have a personal knowledge and experiences that span all of the categories.”
Asked about marketing for the new store, Mel says: “We did a repeat of the ribbon-cutting ceremony that went very well for us when we rebranded in Shoreham earlier in the year. So we had an official opening day and Marilyn was the special guest for the ribbon-cutting. And we did a leaflet drop, and commandeered local family and friends to promote the store at local groups and schools and so on. We’ve also done a lot of social marketing – we’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
“But I think generally once you’ve opened one store, and the formula works, opening up the second one is easy. Okay, it’s not easy! But it’s rewarding and we’re really pleased we did it”
So how do the pair plan to split their time now they have two stores? “Carefully?,” suggests Mel. “But because we’ve had the other store for just over year, and we’ve got very good team down there, we’re actually in a lucky position. We’ve got a good solid team looking after the Shoreham store for us, and some of the team have been working in both stores – for example, Kelly, our head nutritionist. For us, personally, it’s really a case of spending our time where it’s most needed.
Opening a second store so quickly after the first suggests the co-owners have bigger ambitions. Are there plans for more Best Health Food Shops? “Yes, absolutely,” says Len. “As we said, I think our main goal going into it was trying to bring the health food store concept firmly into the modern age and modern retail environment. And we like to spread our ideas and thinking around the country. We’d like to open as many stores as we have time for”.
What advice would the pair offer to other health store owners thinking about opening a second store? “Just go for it,” says Mel. “For us it’s been about making sure the locations we choose are ones we know about, and also involving the local community from the outset – visiting the area, talking to local businesses and people about whether a health food store would be welcomed.
“But I think generally once you’ve opened one store, and the formula works, opening up the second one is easy. Okay, it’s not easy! But it’s rewarding and we’re really pleased we did it.”