The health food store. in downtown Houston is a community store.
“It’s like Whole Foods and Trader Joe had a baby!” said a customer named Stacy.
Founded in 2017 by Kathy Richardson, the health foodstore. is located at 103 S. Grand Ave. in a restored, 1913 mercantile building. Black cord lighting hanging from the original tin ceiling, exposed brick walls and re-purposed shelving from past decades give the store a sense of times-gone-by.
Inventory includes organic and fresh eggs, milk, produce, mushrooms and meat from more than a dozen local farms, providing customers local, quality food six days per week. Texas County artists’ crafts of wool, pottery, jewelry and farmhouse décor add beauty to the space and are available for purchase.
“I always wanted a health food store in Houston,” said Richardson, a retired dietitian. “I love bulk grains, nuts and seeds because I used to do a lot of baking. I am interested in health and I love history. Owning this store, working beside an amazing team of people, and meeting the incredible customers has been a blessing.”
“health. happiness. all things good.” is the store motto, with all little letters and a periods at the end of each segment.
“the health food store. is little, but it makes a statement,” Richardson said.
Then came November of 2021, when Kathy met Sally and a new chapter began.
On Jan. 1 of this year, Sally Wiersema became the new owner of the health food store, and she is happy.
The eighth generation of her family to be born in Howell County, Sally spent half of her youth growing up in Willow Springs surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but has lived the last two decades in Columbus, Ohio. She moved back to the area with her husband, Ryan Lawrence, and 18-year-old son, Will, in the last week of December.
“We were ready to get out of the city,” Sally said. “It feels like we are home.”
Lawrence is a contractor (and excellent Friday soup maker at the health food store) and plans to build a residence on property in Elk Creek while the family temporarily resides in housing at Willow Springs.
“I know this place pretty well,” said Will, the store’s tech advisor. “I spent two weeks here every summer.”
Many cousins and many float trips made the move easier for the family, which includes two dogs and one cat.
“It has been a long-time dream for Sally to have her own store,” Ryan said. “She seems to have been preparing for this most of her life.”
At the age of nine, Sally’s parents, Chuck and Patty Wiersema, moved to Warsaw, Ind., and opened a health food store. Sally jumped in, beginning by bagging bulk food and soon working the cash register. She hasn’t looked back.
“I love to work,” Sally said. “I was paid $2.50 an hour and I bought all my own clothes from that time on.”
the health food store. brings fond memories.
“I love the smell of the stock room, all the nuts, seeds and grains,” Sally said. It reminds me of growing up.”
Sally’s impressive work experience includes beginning with Columbus, Ohio’s Northwest Natural Foods, at one time the third largest health food store in the world. Economic evolution took it over and eventually Sally found herself working at the largest Whole Foods store in America.
A team leader, Sally was over several departments that included supplements, body care, home décor, books and clothing. Her responsibilities included fresh produce for a while, and she was in charge of the entire building’s holiday decorations.
Sally helped set up new stores, which included more than a dozen.
A temporary stint as a vegan cook for Del Shroufe, author of the “Forks Over Knives” cookbook, and Wellness Forum physician Pam Popper gave Sally a fresh perspective on local produce.
“I learned how to cook there,” she said, “and to not to be afraid of spices and onions. We have spices here, fresh and a great variety.”
“I tried to leave for a little while,” said Sally of her Whole Foods experience, “but I came back. On Feb. 6, I would have been at Whole Foods for 15 years.”
“Sally is personable, passionate and compassionate,” said her mom, Patty Wiersema, “and she has a great knowledge base. She is always researching new things. She has far surpassed what I knew.”
Supplements are some of Sally’s knowledge favorites, but the store includes something for everyone. There are many specialty food items for the gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, vegan or meat lovers.
“You will find things here you won’t find anywhere else,” she said.
all things good.
It was a cold day, but warm and cozy at the health food store in downtown Houston. Cookies were just baked and the locally roasted coffee was hot.
Sally Wiersema, petite and energetic, raced to the back to answer the phone, holding the wrapper of a product a customer brought in to see if she could order it. A new shipment of products sat on the kitchen table ready to be put in their newly organized places.
Customers are greeted with old fashioned friendliness and their name.
“I am learning names,” Sally said. “It will take a while, but I am trying!”
“Sally is the best friend you will ever have,” said Michaela, a long-time acquaintance. “She is a nurturer and a healer. Her knowledge of supplements and foods is amazing.”
“I like to work, and I like to help people,” Sally said. “I want more happy, healthy people. Everyone has been very friendly to us and the customers have been awesome. I am happy to be here.”
The health food store’s phone number is 417-967-3000. The address is 103 S. Grand Ave. in Houston.