Steve Clark has seen a lot of changes in the health food business since 1980, when his father, Gene Clark, opened Gene’s Health Food.
“It was more of a hippie business back when Gene bought it,” Steve Clark said. “There were herbs in big barrels, incense sticks and oils. The industry took a big step with Spirulina,” a green vegetation that put health food stores on the map.
“And it’s grown exponentially since then,” the owner of Clark’s Health & Nutrition Center, 3118 Alvey Park Drive E., said last week.
So much so, that the government considers health food stores an essential business during the current coronavirus pandemic, Clark said.
“I was already out of the Air Force when he got in the health food business,” Clark said of his father.
“I was living in Georgia and my youngest son was graduating from high school,” he said. “Gene came down and begged me to take over the store. My wife at the time wanted to get closer to her mom in Louisville, so we came back.”
Clark said, “It was a natural fit for me. I had been teaching most of my life, including being a training manager in the Air Force and I had been a coach. Most of this job is teaching people. It’s not just retail, it’s educating people.”
After 12 years of managing Gene’s Health Food, Clark decided to go out on his own in 2005, opening his store in Woodlands Plaza off Kentucky 54.
“I was at that location for 10 years,” Clark said. “I’ve been in this location for four.”
The small strip center is behind AutoZone.
During the pandemic, people are calling to see what natural products they can use.
“A lot of the calls I’m getting now are from people looking for the components to make their own hand sanitizer,” Clark said.
“No one really knows if any health supplements will work with coronavirus,” he said. “Elderberry worked well with the influenza epidemic in 1918. But I’m hearing that it’s not a good idea for this type of virus.”
He said, “No one has natural immunity to this virus.”
Probiotics are the store’s best-selling items.
“So many things affect our digestion,” Clark said. “I’ve been researching it for 15 years. Probiotics make a huge difference.”
There are a few bare spots on his shelves.
“During all the chaos, people are ordering supplements and there’s a huge backlog,” Clark said. “I have a bunch of items somewhere in transit.”
He said, “It is such a changing world. This coronavirus is going to change everything we do. In this business, we’re going to have to get more into video chatting with people and doing Facebook live or we’ll get run over by people like Amazon. We have to market ourselves more.”
Clark said, “I’ve been in this business for 26 years. It’s changed a lot in that time. Now, we have to be more educational.”
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 firstname.lastname@example.org