A Marketplace that Puts the Customer First
Apr 01, 2019 12:22PM
by Martin MironOrganic Marketplace has served Gaston County for 26 years, bringing healthy organic and natural foods, clean, chemical-free personal care products and one of the largest wellness departments in the area. They are focused on providing the highest-quality products that have been vetted by their trained staff to insure customers’ confidence.
Owner and CEO Renée C. Southard has a background in education, as well as being a trained herbalist and a Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP). She is the chair of beautification for Keep Gastonia Beautiful, on the Gaston County Bee City Committee, and chair of education and executive secretary for SENPA, a national organization for independent retailers.
She states, “In 1990, I felt that this area needed a store where health alternatives could be found. I had been involved in a couple of herbal companies, and decided in 1993 to open a store. We originally were called Nature’s Path. At the time we opened, we only carried supplements. We opened in a small, 800-square-foot location and quickly grew to needing the spaces next to us.”
She noted that customers were seeing results, but the availability of organic and natural foods was not part of mainstream groceries. They changed the name to Organic Marketplace and moved to their current location, a freestanding “recycled” firehouse, in 2003. “We not only repurposed the building, we opened the first organic cafe, Sprouts. Moving gave us the space and opportunity to be a stronger source for community events and education. We are now moving into our 26th year of operation,” says Southard.
Organic Marketplace has always been a community resource, providing speaking engagements in schools, lecturing for civic organizations and hosting weekly yoga classes, health fairs and personal consultations by appointment. The selection of products includes top industry lines of supplements, vitamins and minerals, a great selection of personal care items and an extensive offering of essential oils. They cater to special needs diets, as well as stocking a large variety of bulk foods, teas and spices.
“My staff consist of eight key employees with combined experience of 220 years in the natural health field. The majority have been with us 10 to 15 years,” advises Southard. “The staff trains weekly on topics of interest to stay current in their field. We attend all education events sponsored by our vendors and participate in webinars to further our educational presence. As I travel around the country educating other retailers (with SENPA) as to how to survive the retail environment we find ourselves in today, I feel we are stewards of this industry.”
Southard notes that it is important for customers to stay informed about the products they use from a reliable source. She says, “Yes we all use Google, but anyone can put anything online; in our store, we are on top of current trends and have the knowledge to assist you in making good choices for your particular needs.”
The industry has had many challenges over the years, and according to Southard, “We face a landscape that is changing because of the internet. Brick-and-mortar stores have diminished in number because of the Amazon giant. We have to create an experience in our stores, tell a story and engage customers to want to join in. We need to offer places they feel secure in their products and information they receive—in a nutshell, our expertise has to be customer service! The internet will never be able to give you a warm cozy feeling like someone you have developed a relationship with.”
Organic Marketplace will celebrate Earth Day in the store with a fun health fair on April 22, and is planning to remodel the space in the coming year. There will also be more consumer education events with industry leaders.
Organic Marketplace is located at 1012 S. New Hope Rd., in Gastonia. For more information, call 704-860-0532 or visit OrganicMarketplaceNC.com