In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic when families were stocking up on vitamins to boost immunity, Mary Vandewiele, vice president of administration and co-owner of the Better Health Store, received a call from a close friend who was struggling to find vitamin C.
Vandewiele, who has always had a passion for the natural and organic lifestyle, knew exactly what her friend needed to do — tweak her search to “liposomal C.”
What Vandewiele’s friend didn’t know is that liposomal C is the most cutting-edge vitamin C — packaged in liposome (or fat) — which allows the vitamin to get into the cells more easily.
“And because it was put in the system as ‘liposomal’ — no one knows what that is — they weren’t finding that vitamin C,” she says. “And so once I told her, she bought a bunch of it and explained to her family that not only did she find the vitamin C, she found the better vitamin C. But she wouldn’t have known it unless I gave her that education.”
That kind of education is just what people have come to know and love about the Better Health Store, which was founded in 1998 and has 14 Michigan stores, in addition to its website.
Better Health’s beginning
Herb Handelsman, dad of Better Health founder Tedd Handelsman, has always had a passion for health.
“My father, he has a lifetime interest in vitamins, supplements and nutrition. He’s like a vitamin zealot, actually,” says Jon Handelsman, co-owner and marketing manager for the Better Health Store. “He’s been an inspiration behind the family getting into the business.”
Initially, the family wanted to sell their items solely online. However, as a way to learn the business, Vandewiele says they purchased their first store in Walled Lake. It was there that they quickly realized the importance of a bricks-and-mortar location.
“It became apparent to them that this stuff had a huge educational piece to it and the people that were in this health store taught them a lot, so they understood the value of connecting with someone that could help you,” she says.
The connections with customers and education continue today. Handelsman says the company employs roughly 250 people, including a nutrition expert in every store, who self-educate on the store’s products so they are always prepared to answer questions from customers.
Online seminars, which can be found on the events tab of the Better Health website, are another way that health experts keep the community in the know on different health products and topics, such as immunity, which has been a huge topic of interest during the pandemic, Vandewiele says.
The Better Health difference
Organic, gluten-free, plant-based, ketogenic foods — long before these items hit the shelves of major retailers — can be found at the Better Health Store or on its website. The company prides itself in being at the forefront of health and wellness.
“We are part of the independent natural retail industry that brings the new products to market,” Vandewiele says, adding that the natural and organic foods customers now find at Costco appeared first on the shelves at a local Better Health Store. “They are the No. 1 distributor of organic foods now because of us. And Kroger has its own brand now, Simple Truth. You can go right down the line. We are the genesis. We take the product, we educate the customer,” Vandewiele says.
By the time items go mainstream, the folks at the Better Health Store are already experts on them. Take CBD products, for example. Vandewiele says the Better Health Store has been stocking CBD products for about five years now, and while they can be found pretty much anywhere these days, you won’t get the same quality elsewhere.
“We bring in companies that have the most amount of research, and we have the most experience with it,” she says. We’ve been selling it for so long that we now have testimonials from customers.”
Only the healthiest ingredients here
The no-no lists are a way to further educate consumers. The lists contain ingredients that the company doesn’t think are healthy or natural — and shouldn’t be in any product you purchase. They won’t be found in the Better Health Store.
“If you shop at Better Health, you know you’re going to get products that are innately good for you,” she says. “If they’re not, we pull them.”
Not only does the Better Health Store stock the newest products before anyone else, Handelsman says they sell these items at lower introductory prices. If you join the rewards program, you get everyday low pricing on thousands of products, he adds. They do a lot of 20% off coupons and deals, too, which helps customers keep costs down.
“We try to be kind of like a Whole Foods for less if you know how to save with us,” Handelsman says.
Shopping the store online has been helpful, especially during the pandemic. Contactless shopping is still offered, Handelsman adds. Order online and pick up curbside. Or, for a fee, you can get same-day delivery in the Detroit and Lansing areas as long as you get the order in by 3 p.m. This is perfect for new moms, Handelsman adds.
If you shop in-store, be sure to check out the grab-and-go section, stop by the café or visit the central kitchen at the Novi location.
Content brought to you by the Better Health Store. For more information, to shop online or to find a location near you, visit the Better Health Store website.