Rhinebeck Health Foods, Rhinebeck, New York

One of our favorite blog activities is visiting stores that carry our products. We love to see how individual stores display and sell our herbs and spices. Often we find that the smaller stores are most creative – both because of limited space and their unique abilities to provide personal service to their customers. 

On a recent visit to Rhinebeck Health Foods in Rhinebeck, New York, we met Amy Byrne, who has been a manager at Rhinebeck Health Foods since 1992. Amy’s a busy mother of two as well. During our chat with her about the bulk section in the store, she offered to write a guest post for us. She writes about how she designed the store’s bulk section to meet the needs of customers within strict space guidelines. 

Here’s Amy’s post, along with our photos.

Amy Byrne, manager, Rhinebeck Health Foods

Lynn Forman has owned and operated Rhinebeck Health Foods since 1978 and has worked hard through highs and lows to maintain the relationships that helped the store grow. Not only with customers, but also with suppliers–local farmers and purveyors that have long been the backbone of the store, along with our own excellent staff, of course!  We’re known for our friendly and helpful customer service.

Our motto “Old school health food and so much more…” really sums up our offerings.  In addition to farm fresh produce, shoppers will find fresh local eggs and dairy products, locally smoked meats and fish, fresh local poultry, beef and pork, fresh fish, fresh locally baked breads and sweets, and a wide array of specialty products from local purveyors including granola, maple syrup, honey, pickled products, freshly made hummus, dressings, pasta sauces and raw organic dark chocolate.

We’re also a full service health food store stocked with vitamins, herbal and homeopathic remedies, healthful pantry basics, fresh ground organic peanut butter, bulk food and spices, books, magazines and our own Garden Street Cafe.

Several years ago we switched out our old 7-foot spice shelves full of re-purposed spaghetti sauce and jelly jars for the more space-efficient Frontier Spice shelf unit.  Change is hardly ever easy, for the store staff or for customers. There was a lot of history that went with those old shelves and jars, many of which had been donated by longtime customers. In fact the jars, with their handwritten floral labels, almost looked like something you’d find on your own shelf at home. I believe this familiarity — this sense of home — has contributed to the store’s success.

But, alas, things do change and we needed to maximize our space, so in came the new Frontier shelf. Its natural wood finish looked right at home, and soon the jars and their contents were gleaming brightly.

The process of weeding out the not-so-best sellers allowed us to really examine which herbs and spices worked well for our store. We’re not computerized, so this was a somewhat laborious task, but well worth the effort. Yup, we still read the price sticker and enter it in the cash register…but we’ve got a good ring-out system and I’d go up against an express lane at the grocery store any day!

So I could fit as many varieties as possible, I took measurements of the big and small jar sizes so I could fit them in different combinations on each shelf to best utilize the space. It worked very well! Bulkier herbs or best sellers went in the bigger jars and not so bulky spices went in the smaller ones…all in alphabetical order, same as always.

Restocking through our weekly UNFI order allowed us to greatly reduce storage needs for back stock. Customers love the freshness of the spices and they also really appreciate being able to buy in small quantities to keep things fresh at home or to try a new spice without committing to an expensive bottle. I’ve heard many customers comment, “I can’t believe how inexpensive it is to purchase your herbs and spices in bulk!” That’s nice to hear, especially in these times.

Except for a few cubbyholes, Lynn’s small office is the only space we have for storage. Along with a desk (actually a painted door suspended between two filing cabinets) it houses bulk bin back stock, office supplies, and a chest freezer which doubles as a work area to create our popular “Hudson Valley Made” gift baskets containing locally made delights. We were honored with the award for “Best Use of Local Product” in last year’s Taste of Rhinebeck event.

We welcome our Rhinebeck neighbors, both old and new, seven days a week.  Find us on Facebook too!

Thanks again Amy, for this insightful post about how much work goes into stocking your bulk section to meet your customers’ needs.

Readers, please tell us what you love most about shopping at your favorite health foods store or co-op. What keeps you going back?

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