By Gwendolyn Glenn
September 5, 2012
Shoppers who visited Laurel Health Foods in a shopping center at Route 1 and Bowie Road to purchase vitamins and healthy supplements might wonder where the store has gone.
No need to worry: The nearly 42-year-old, family-run health food store has not gone out of business. Its owners simply moved it to 358 Main St. in early July.
"We've had customers reaching out to us on Facebook, asking where we are," said owner Monica Price. "We had a sign up about the move and passed out fliers, so a lot of our long-time customers are finding us."
The relocation to Main Street marks the third location for the store. Price's mother, Maria Lowe, initially opened the business in 1971 in the Laurel Shopping Center, when she tired of having to travel to other areas to purchase health food supplements and organic products. The family moved the store across the street to the Bowie Road shopping center 22 years later, where they operated out of a larger space.
According to Price's son Curtis Price, who runs a Crossfit training operation in addition to working in the store, the move to Main Street was precipitated by a decrease in the amount of foot traffic at the Bowie Road location.
"Our walk-by traffic was mainly people carrying clothes to the laundromat, which was not like that when we moved there 20 years ago," he said. "The past few years, you either came because you knew about us or you accidentally stumbled on the store."
"We were down in a corner and unless you were going to the pizza place or laundry, you wouldn't notice us," Monica Price added. "We have more exposure on Main Street and it feels like we're more a part of the community. We're also getting new customers that we probably wouldn't have gotten in the other location."
The new store on Main Street is much smaller than the Bowie Road location — 900 square feet versus 2,220 square feet — but the Prices say the rent is much lower. Plus, they like the coziness of the building.
"My grandparents' (first) store was like this, so all we're doing is going back to what it used to be as a small specialty store," Curtis Price said. "We've just scaled down and trimmed the fat. We're still offering low-calorie, gluten-free and wheat-free items along with our vitamin supplements, which was always our mainstay. We're not trying to compete with the large grocery stores, but we're niche-oriented."
The store still has organic milk products, specialty teas, meats and some produce. And as they have always done, the Prices continue to offer customers advice on healthy eating and detailed information on their supplements.
"A lot of our customers have been coming to us for 10 years or more for that information, and they don't have to pay for it. They know us and know we eat a certain way and won't try to just sell them something," Curtis Price said. "We tell our customers just because it's an organic chocolate chip cookie it's still a chocolate chip cookie and could have a lot of sugar in it. There's a lot of organic food out there, but organic doesn't mean something is healthy for you."
Healthy eating is high on the Price's list and at the Bowie Road location they had a small cafe in the back of the store where they sold items that catered to the diets followed by diabetics. That part of the operation is still under construction at the new location, and the Prices said it will take some time to complete, equip and get the required food service inspections and approvals.
"The cafe did OK before and we think it will do a lot better here on Main Street, considering the nice influx of new business we've seen," Curtis Price said.
The Prices are a close-knit family and in contemplating the move, part of their discussions centered on family matriarch Maria Lowe, who died in 2010, and what she would have thought about relocating the store.
"I think initially mom wouldn't have wanted to move. She and dad were old school and probably would have wanted to stay, but I think the coziness and warm feeling of the store would have made her love it. This feels right," Monica Price said.
Curtis Price agreed and added, "Growing up in Germany, she (Maria Lowe) always envisioned having a small store in a quaint downtown area and that's what we have here. We see people walking by, some we know, and waving, instead of looking out our window at a big parking lot in the old place.
"My mom (Monica Price) has never seen the Main Street Festival because we were always working, so now that we're on Main, she's excited about that," Curtis Price said. "This is great."