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Living What You Sell

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— February 15, 2017

Living What You Sell

  • Know what you sell. That’s the mantra of The Health Hut in Mobile, Alabama.
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Know what you sell. That’s the mantra of The Health Hut in Mobile, Alabama. Indeed, the store owes its success in great measure to “the knowledge and experience of the staff,” says Claude Hutchinson, the store’s chief buyer. “You can have products on your shelves that do people a lot of good, but if a customer doesn’t know how to apply them, they’re not going to help.” Hutchinson has 24 years of experience in health food and supplementation, while store owner Jeff Sheldon holds a dual master’s degree in sports management and health & fitness management. Other staff members have been with the store for years.

By exercising, eating well and controlling stress factors, Hutchinson lives the healthy lifestyle many of his customers aspire to. “I used to competitively power lift, and I played a lot of tennis,” he says. “Now I just want to have fun and keep up with my boys. I do aerobic movement and stretching, and I run with the kids. In this day and age, it can be difficult to always eat the way you need to eat. We eat a lot of vegetables, including raw vegetables, we get enough protein, and we drink a decent amount of fluids.”

His sons, ages 8 and 14, had never been to a fast-food restaurant until the older one visited a McDonald’s on a school field trip. “He didn’t like it,” Hutchinson reported. “We have pizza night on Friday, but we don’t make meals out of heavily processed foods. For a lot of people who are always on the go, and it’s not possible to eat the way they want, for them supplementation is going to be a big factor.”

The nutritional supplements he most often recommends for overall health include a good multiple vitamin formula with minerals, probiotics and fish oil. Probiotics help with digestion by providing healthy microorganisms for the stomach and intestines. “For most people, the fatty acids they’re getting through their foods throw the ratio of omega-3 off,” said Hutchinson, “so fish oil is becoming kind of a necessity. For some people, I also suggest a greens formula, especially if they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.”

The Health Hut was started 35 years ago by a certified herbalist and kinesiologist who had transformed his own health from poor to vibrant in his early 50s. Now 90, he is still in excellent shape. Sheldon bought the store five years ago and has since opened two branches in the Mobile area. An athlete since his teens, he has added a focus on sports nutrition to the store’s offerings.

Because The Health Hut has been open for so long, said Hutchinson, “we have the benefit of a really nice customer base. People who came here as children are coming in with their own kids—some with their grandkids. We have all age groups, ethnic backgrounds, and categories of people.”

In a space of 2,100 square feet, the store offers many products, including some not often seen in other shops. “If a customer tells us about a product,” said Hutchinson, “and it looks really good, and people are seeming to benefit from it, then we’ll order it. If someone comes in with a question about a product or nutrient, and we don’t have it, we find out what it is.”

The store’s primary goal is to help people. “You have to make money to stay in business,” said Hutchinson, “and you do that by providing health for the people coming in. If there are three things a person can take for a problem, we recommend the one that has given the best results, not the one we can charge the most money for.”

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