The Spokesman-Review

Organic Food Draws Buyers Health-Food Store Finds Public Interested In Good Nutrition


The recent opening of supermarket-size health-food stores in Spokane hasn’t undercut a small East Side grocery that caters to the health-conscious consumer.

The Total Health Center at Fifth and Thor continues to attract a loyal clientele despite the arrival of Huckleberry’s on the South Hill and Bountiful Fresh Foods downtown.

Maybe it’s because the store offers free delivery to its customers.

Owners Mark and Tamy Roloff said their business is holding steady despite the new competition. Apparently there’s enough interest in healthy foods to sustain the profits for them as well as the bigger newcomers.

“People are more and more interested in their health,” said Mark Roloff.

The Total Health Center stocks a wide range of health food and natural products, products like miso for vegetarian soup, fresh tofu for stir-fry dishes and a wide array of vitamins and nutrition supplements.

“We have a conviction of taking care of this body,” said Tamy Roloff, pointing to herself.

They also sell sandwiches and beverages.

On the shelves is a wide range of organically grown foods, from whole wheat bread to dried shiitake mushrooms. Some cost no more than the same products raised through conventional agriculture.

For example, huge bags of organically grown carrots from the Spokane area sell for 59 cents a pound. They are sweet and crunchy.

Organic leaf lettuce is 69 cents a bunch, a little below the $1 a bunch often seen in regular supermarkets. Organic broccoli recently went up to $1.19 a pound. It was selling for less earlier in the winter, the Roloffs said. Organic coffee was priced at just over $8 a pound.

The Roloffs believe that conventional agriculture uses too many chemicals, leaving harmful residues in food while damaging the environment.

As a result, many of the products on the health-food shelves are organically grown, meaning they are produced without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

As a health-food store, the Total Health Center also caters to people seeking nutritional supplements to improve health conditions or enhance energy levels. The store has a wide range of herbal products such as extract of echinacea and golden seal.

A lot of health-food advocates believe those two herbs can help fight off colds and bacterial infections by boosting the body’s immune system. Many of the herbal traditions are handed down from ancient medicine, which relied heavily on plants to treat the body. For example, Asians have long favored ginseng for an energizing effect.

There are some 140 different brands of teas at the Roloff’s store, including traditional types as well as herbal teas like ginseng, echinacea, ginger and mint teas.

Nutritional research increasingly backs up what health-food proponents have believed for years - that herbs and whole foods promote health.

For example, new research shows that teas contain beneficial compounds such as bioflavonoids that might reduce the risk of stroke in men. Green tea is shown to have a chemical that might help ward off cancer.

The Roloffs said they’ve been studying nutrition for years as well as stocking their own home with the products they sell. As a result, they can give advice to customers who aren’t familiar with the world of health food.

The couple met while studying business at Eastern Washington University. They opened the store at 501 S. Thor four years ago after moving to Spokane from Ritzville, where they had opened a health-food store in 1989.

Mark Roloff still farms 500 acres of wheat and barley on land that’s been in his family for more than four generations. The couple have four children.

Tamy Roloff said she became interested in health foods when she became pregnant with her oldest daughter. Slowly, the family changed its diet to eliminate sugar and introduce healthier foods, such as brown rice and whole wheat. They started by buying bulk foods and then distributing them in the Ritzville area before launching into the business.

For newcomers to natural foods, Tamy Roloff recommends books such as “The Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking” by Aveline Kushi.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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