Healthyway is not your average grocery store.
After browsing the brightly-lit aisles, customers can put their feet up and have a bite to eat in the store’s cafe.
The kitchen, which serves everything from pulled pork sandwiches and veggie burgers to soups, baked goods, juices, coffee and tea, is run by Red Seal Chef Ralf Spodzieja and is a new addition to the store.
The products, including the meat, are locally grown and ethically raised, as are most of the items available for purchase that line Healthyway’s shelves.
The business has come a long way since its humble beginnings 23 years ago when Bill and Catherine Pakosz purchased Vitality Plus, a local health supplement store. Always one to help others, the business aligned with values Catherine strongly believed in. The store was eventually renamed Healthyway Vitamins Plus and then shortened to simply Healthway as the business evolved and became more than just a supplement store.
Will and Donna Pakosz took over the operations of the business following Bill and Catherine’s retirement.
“The business was built from the ground up,” says Donna. “You hear ‘family-run business’ but it really is. It’s a generationally-run family business.”
Donna’s husband Will has been involved with Healthyway for 20 years. He started working at his parents’ business as a summer job when he would come from university.
And Will’s brother, a carpenter, has been instrumental in every renovation and expansion, including Healthyway’s move last October on federal election day to its current location across the street from the Community Centre.
The move from Healthyway’s former spot in the Home Hardware Plaza on Dogwood Street has allowed the business to add the cafe, as well as offer a more extensive product line. It’s also allowed for employee growth; the business now employs approximately 30 people.
Donna says the family is fortunate that the community allowed the business to expand.
“You can’t do a development like this and grow without the support of your customers and your community,” Donna says. “We’re happy for the support we’ve gotten over the years.”
For the Pakoszes it’s been a successful relationship that began 23 years ago when there wasn’t the same level of emphasis as there is now put on healthy eating. But, she says, Will bought into the concept.
“He saw the potential in it,” she says. “The wellness industry wasn’t exactly popular at that point. The major conventional grocery stores didn’t carry wellness products at that time. Will saw the potential though in that and wanted to see where it would go.”
Donna, who has always been passionate about healthy eating, says she too got on board and, with a background in social work, has been able to take on the Human Resources side of running a business.
“For myself, I always had an interest in eating healthy and at the time, it was not always easy to find those products.”
Which is part of what makes Healthyway successful.
“We have a pretty strong value system of what we want in our store so we try to filter out products that aren’t healthy for you. A lot of products are marketed as good for you but they really aren’t,” Donna says. “When you go to other grocery stores you have to weed through what’s good and what’s not. When you come in here there’s a level of trust that you know you’re getting foods that are good for you.”
Healthyway also prides itself on its customer service.
“When you come in here, it’s more than just grocery shopping, you can get personal information,” Donna says. “Most of the people who work here can give you information on the products, they can tell you how to cook quinoa. There’s certainly a level of customer service that goes along with it.”
As part of a customer appreciation day, every Earth Day for the last 10 years, the Pakoszes have hosted a demo gathering of local companies as a way of showcasing local farmers and food growers and producers. It also provides customers with the opportunity to meet the vendors and ask questions about their products.
It’s a recipe that seems to be working. Donna says since moving into their new digs, there’s been an increase in traffic coming through the front doors.
And they’ve developed a loyal customer base that keeps Healthyway thriving.
“We feel fortunate we’ve been able to make ourselves stay relevant and continue to update ourselves and grow to offer something that’s unique and that people can’t get elsewhere.”
Healthyway is located at 1121 Cedar St. For more on the store, visit www.healthywaynaturalfoods.com
Red Seal Chef Ralf Spodzieja works his magic in the kitchen at Healthyway.
Kristen Douglas/Campbell River Mirror