A new name recently appeared above the doors of two long-standing Tri-City health food stores, Highland Health Foods in Kennewick and Richland Health Foods.
But longtime customers needn’t worry.
Highlands Organic Market will continue to feature the same items.
Owner Nathan Lull said it was time to unify both stores under the shared name.
He explained that “health foods” has become an antiquated term in a market with buzz words like “health food” and “natural.”
Lull said he originally wanted to include “natural market” while brainstorming new store names, but it’s “used by too many big box stores. ‘Organic’ is a way to say ‘natural’ in more modern terminology,” he said.
However, he did decide to incorporate the tagline “crave natural” into the new branding to help make the connection.
Though not 100 percent of the products carried in the Tri-City stores are organic, Lull said he is constantly working to improve selection and strives to keep “artificial flavors, artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup and other things not noted to be healthy” off the shelves.
He said his stores also provide a “safe place” and family-friendly environment for customers to shop, especially those who have addictions since Highlands Organic Market doesn’t carry alcohol, tobacco, gambling products, gossip magazines or other similar publications.
“(The new name) is a calling to where we want to be,” said Lull. “We have a lot of growth potential and I intend to keep pushing toward that.”
Since 1963, the Lull family has provided Tri-Citians with a variety of food, supplements, personal care items, reference materials and home goods to support a healthy lifestyle.
Lull said his grandparents, Gene and Nelita Lull, opened their first store, Pasco Health Foods, in downtown Pasco near Grigg’s, where Sears used to be.
“They had some interest in this because one of my aunts had food allergies,” Lull said.
Though his grandmother was more skeptical of so-called health foods — a relatively new concept at that time —from her training as a nurse, she also knew diet was integral to health, he said. “Over time, she had customers that treated ailments successfully on their own, and that’s what made her a believer,” Lull said.
Later on, the store moved into the space REI now occupies off Highway 395 in Kennewick before settling into its present-day, 5,000-square-foot store at 101 Vista Way.
Along the way, Gene and Nelita Lull created a partnership with a Spokane-based health food store, but the cooperative later fell through, leaving the Kennewick store in bankruptcy.
Not wanting to lose their store, in 1980 the Lulls founded the roughly 2,500-square-foot Richland Health Foods store separate from Highland Health Foods, using their own, personal funds — hence, the name difference.
The investment in the second store at 1769 George Washington paid off, which is why both stores are still open today, employing 16 people.
Nathan Lull said his father and aunts all worked in the stores growing up, and he followed in their footsteps when he started working there at age 15.
Last year, longtime employee and partner of 50 years, Bob Ballou, sold his share in the company to Nathan Lull and his wife, though Ballou remains involved with the store, lending advice drawn from decades of experience with the company and managing the account books.
Customer Tilly Christian of Richland has been shopping at Highlands since 2011, when she moved to the area from Texas after retiring. She said there were great health foods stores in Houston that she frequented and was happy to find a similar resource in Tri-Cities.
“We’re very fortunate to have it here. They do a great job and they have organic. They have a good variety of vitamins and minerals and supplements,” said Christian, who continued that when friends come to visit, she always makes a point of taking them to the store. She said some load their suitcases with things to take home.
“Everybody in there is really knowledgeable,” she added.
Christian said she loves the rebrand. “It’s very updated. I think Nathan has done wonders in that store. He has rearranged it, reorganized it and has more stuff in there; the energy is good. He’s got something for everybody,” she said.
During the past year, Lull said that he and his store managers have purposefully worked to grow the business. Highlands Organic Market has been working with Sergio Manente of True Wind Consulting in West Richland to guide the stores’ leadership and teams to develop a purposeful culture. The team also worked on marketing.
Lull said the rebrand took about eight months, with the new signs going up at the end of May.
“Once we got the design done and the licensing, it was just the tweaks between the digital and physical signage,” he said.
Though he said the licensing fees themselves were nominal, the cost of the signs — $16,000 total — was the biggest investment, because Lull opted for quality signs intended to see the company through the next couple of decades.
Redesigned business cards, new logo-branded entry rugs and uniforms also were rolled out. Lull said he plans to introduce branded reusable shopping totes as well.
Advertisements on Dial-a-Ride buses and online have announced the brand transition to the community.
“I’m happy with the change. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and I feel it will serve us well into the future,” Lull said. “I also want to give my team credit. We have a good team with low turnover, they are the driving force of our efforts to serve and we are growing better all the time.”
Looking to the future, Lull plans to continue to grow the business and hopes to either enlarge or relocate his Richland store, providing more opportunities for growth.
Lull said one of his goals for next year is to introduce an e-commerce service which will enable customers to submit orders online for pick-up at one of the stores.
As an extension of Highlands Organic Market’s online healthy living resources and blog, Lull said he hopes to open a conference room and offer educational events at the Kennewick store.
“We want to be a source for health and all its different facets. We want to offer more than just food and supplements but be that reference source,” he said. “If I can spread health through education, then that’s the most powerful thing I can do.”
Both stores are open six days a week. They are closed Saturdays. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
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