We work together:
to sell the finest, cleanest food,
to support our local farmers and producers,
to teach and give great service to our guests, staff, vendors and truckers,
to enrich the communities we love,
to energize everyone we meet!
In 1986, with absolutely no knowledge of business, I bought a tiny one-year-old market located in the Blue Mall, Dorset Street, South Burlington, Vermont. I had been an English teacher, a psychotherapist, a mother… so why not “branch out” into the world of groceries and business ownership? (Looking back, it seems crazy!) One of my motivations was finding really good, clean food for my family. I had been raised in a home where bread was baked, meals were made from scratch, and the enjoyment of food was very important. Back in the 1980’s more and more processed foods were filling the shelves of supermarkets. I truly wanted to feed my family differently, and different choices seemed very hard to come by. I also had memories of the food markets I knew growing up; I remembered them as community meeting places, where neighbors ran into each other in the aisles. They seemed like much happier places to shop than the sterile,harshly-lit supermarkets I visited each week. So, why not own a tiny food market that was dedicated to exactly the kinds of things I was searching for?
Those first few (like 10) years were difficult and rocky for me as a total business neophyte. But my passion for food, community, and the mysteries of business drove me on, and seven years later I doubled the size of the store to 2400 square feet. A few years later I made the big move around the corner to 4 Market Street, where I bravely took on 5000 square feet, and seven years later took on an additional 2500, making our store a whopping 8000 square feet when you included our little upstairs mezzanine. That mezzanine housed our offices where 30 or so of us worked in cramped quarters, fighting over desks and computers.
In 1999 my son, Eli, graduated from college and came back to Healthy Living after 4 years in Boston. In the summer of 2007 he and I broke ground (after 3 years of research and planning) on our current store; 35,000 square feet. At the time, this was a huge leap and a store size that most independent natural food stores never reach.
Two years later my daughter, Nina, having graduated from college and culinary school, returned to Vermont and to Healthy Living! With her, Nina brought a new energy and passion to learning and teaching, and founded the Healthy Living Learning Center, an innovative program of classes and demonstrations for non-professionals, designed to help people better connect with their food through education. I now find myself working side by side with my kids, which is really a joy and makes Healthy Living a true family business.
In 2013 Healthy Living opened its second location in Saratoga Springs, NY. Our New York store employs over 100 staff, and as staff grows I am reminded that I went from one employee back in 1986 to almost 300 today, from 1200 square feet to 35,000 in both locations, from putting away the entire order by myself to having a team of grocery folks attacking it en masse, and from basically knowing zero about business to being pretty darn good at it! I find I still love the everyday routines, the customer interactions, the new product excitement, the seasonal changes, and the learning process. All that I’ve learned over the years about running a business translates to taking care of people… serving people, which is, I believe, a good way to live on this planet.
- Katy Lesser, Owner
What we’re committed to:
Really great food!
Of course! That’s how we got started….searching for clean, healthy, unprocessed foods. Our team of Buyers “curate” our shelves and coolers, filling them with a selection of fantastic foods that meet our standards. And our Café and Bake Shop crank out terrific, creative things seven days a week!
Extreme deliciousness is what we’re after!
Service and hospitality go hand-in-hand here for a great shopping experience. You might wonder: what’s the difference between service and hospitality? We believe there’s a big difference. To us, service is how we deliver our products to you; it’s the speed, efficiency and accuracy you get at the check-out, in the aisles, or at our Café. Hospitality is how you feel when you’re in our store and how you think about us after you’ve shopped; we want you to feel like we’re on your side, that we listen, and you leave happier than when you walked in! We want both our service and hospitality to excel!
As the years have gone by, we’ve realized it’s simply an awesome opportunity to employ almost 300 people! This is our greatest joy: creating a community of bright, motivated workers who enjoy serving each other, our vendors, truck drivers, and our guests.
Twenty five years ago we started our Community Outreach Program because we felt it was important to support the community that’s loyal to us. Today that program gives to over 150 local, small non-profits every year. It’s a fantastic way for our outreach team and our staff to be involved in community events and projects.
Our bottom line
Yes, we are dedicated to making a profit competitive with our peers in the natural foods industry. Profits are necessary for responsible change and expansion.
For over 25 years we’ve prided ourselves on a workplace that includes a deep commitment to each other; working together harmoniously, getting the job done happily, finding ways to support each other every day. In our own little corner of the world, we are creating a happy community in the hope that it will affect the larger community around us. The ripple effect starts here at HL!