Julie Shaffley first visited Washington state when she was a teenager. She flew in from her home in Southwest Minnesota to visit her brother.
“I remember thinking ‘this is where I want to live, this is where my future is,’” she said. “It was kind of weird.”
At the time, she didn’t know she would end up being so passionate about health food.
“I wanted to grow up and be an English teacher. Now I’ve done neither of those things,” Shaffley joked.
Instead, she studied psychology in the Midwest and moved to the West Coast to manage a health store in Olympia. Fast forward to 2020 and she’s celebrating her 30th year as the owner of Good Health Nutrition Center in Centralia. In the 1990s, after a decade in the health food industry, Shaffley bought the store from a friend, who originally opened it in 1976.
“I just love what I do,” Shaffley said. “I’m working with customers that first came in and I’m now working with their grandchildren … we get to know each other on a very personal level.”
Shaffley remembers being in the industry in the ‘80s, long before health food or supplements came into the mainstream.
“I was very blessed to work with some pioneers in the health food industry, so I got to witness how passionate they were in helping people,” she said. “It was an upward battle to educate people about supplements and about food.”
Back then, Shaffley and her colleagues were talking about Vitamin C and multivitamins, things now commonly found in grocery stores.
“But we were called the granolas,” Shaffley said. “People kind of looked at you.”
Even things like yogurt hadn’t been widely popularized in the U.S. Shaffley said people couldn’t believe that she and her coworkers ate it.
Although the industry was once niche, many of the things Shaffley and her coworkers were advocating have now become mainstream in the U.S., including medicinal herbs and some relaxation techniques.
One thing she loves about the industry is the constantly evolving science behind it. She considers herself a “science geek,” keeping up with scientific studies about health food and adapting accordingly.
Although she said the U.S. is behind in studying the efficacy of medicinal herbs, she’s now seeing more studies validating the efficacy of those herbs that older generations have been using all along.
Shaffley also keeps up with the science in order to ensure that only the best products are on her shelves.
“My customers have entrusted their lives and their health to me, and I don’t take that lightly,” she said. “That’s a big responsibility.”
Because of that, Shaffley only reps companies that offer a money-back guarantee. She offers the same thing to her customers.
“In good conscience, how can I trust a product if the company that manufactures it doesn’t stand behind it 100 percent?” she said.
She’s also cautious of companies hyping up a product with little science behind it.
“They’ll say ‘it’ll make you jump a tall building in a single bound,’ but if it sounds too good to be true, it is,” she said. “If there’s no science about it, I’m very leary about that.”
Shaffley, who is also a Port of Centralia commissioner, said she also finds joy in the store because of her passion for business.
“I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed business,” she said. “It’s a challenge and it changes all the time. Just the adventure and the challenges of business, I really enjoy it.”
When the pandemic hit, the store struggled to get in its inventory, as companies had a tough time sourcing ingredients from overseas. Pandemic-related shutdowns also threw some consumers into a frenzy, buying up supplements that boost the immune system.
“One of my manufacturers, an herbal company, went through 11 months of inventory in three days,” Shaffley said.
Besides that, business has been fairly stable during the pandemic. Shaffley credits the supportive community. She did describe a shift in pandemic buying habits, though. Individuals are more interested in supplements to help their immune system, for example. As stress levels skyrocket, chocolate is also flying off the shelves.
As for the future, Shaffley has no immediate plans to retire, and she’d be happy to see the store stick around 30 more years.
“Will it be in my hands? Probably not. Thirty years is a long time,” she said. “But that would be a blessing, a joy for me.”