One of the first health food stores in the land, and certainly the very first in Greystones, Nature’s Gold is celebrating its 40th birthday all this week with a series of free events and general partying.
Back on June 27th, 1977, it certainly wasn’t a given that Brod and Caroline would be standing proud in that very same doorway four decades later, but the world smartly caught up with their way of thinking. With a passion.
As the 40th celebrations kick off today, Nature’s Gold are healthier than ever, with outlets in Rathcoole and Dunboyne, and the next generation of Kearons – Geoff and Nic – carrying on the yummy and nutritious tradition.
Heck, given all the love and hugs going around, we even managed to convince the notoriously shy Brod to sit down and give us the lowdown on just how his organic little seed of an idea has grown into such a fine family tree…
So, you’re doing hard manual labour on a building site in Greystones, saving up that £750 to open a health food store in Greystones – convinced it would succeed, or was the brickie bricking it…? Starting up any business is always a gamble so, yes there were a few bricks produced! But with my outlay of £750, I had little to lose – sure if it failed couldn’t I just eat the stock and use the shelves to make a hut to live in?
Did everyone around you believe in your idea from the start, or were there those who saw you as just a hippy with a trippy plan…? I was fortunate enough to know a couple who were involved in the trade for a long time and they were a great encouragement for me. But most of my neighbours on Killincarrig Road thought I was completely dingbats, and some (who shall remain nameless) only gave me six months!
Can you remember that first day on June 27th, 1977? Your first customer, your first sale, the feeling you had closing up…? Yes, I remember my first customer very well – a rather uppercrust lady from the Burnaby who was so determined to be my first customer that she parked her car outside the front door a full hour before I was due to open. I think she bought a jar of honey. She has long since gone to her reward, God bless her! At the end of that first day I was dying to count the takings – it was a princely £67!
There was Nature’s Gold and about three other health food stores in Ireland at the time; did it feel like Frodo and Samwise, heading off on a long, long mission, or were you too busy taking it one day at a time, sweet Jesus…? Initially, yes, I suppose there was pioneering spirit amongst the first health stores, and I think it’s fair to say that most people who run health stores have a certain missionary zeal to some extent.
Was there a point early on when you knew Nature’s Gold was here to stay, a milestone that helped you relax about the future? Or maybe that hasn’t happened yet…? The first five years were a bit shakey and it’s only when I found I could afford to leave the family home at age 30 did I realise that finally I was getting somewhere! Having said that, in business, I don’t think you ever fully relax about the future.
Today, we all live in a Nature’s Gold world, with everyone watching their peas and quince – make you all happy and warm inside, or are you pissed off about all this new competition…? I think, in terms of competition, in many ways we are victims of our own success – we are mainstream now, serious businessesm no longer run by hippy dippy types. But if you consider that the objective of the health food trade is to encourage better nutrition and better health for all, I think we have been a roaring success, and that makes me happy. What would make me happier though, is to see the government recognise that and acknowledge our role in helping to keep people in good health and out of hospital.
Does it surprise you just how big a business the health food industry has become? Amazon just bought the Whole Foods chain for close to $14m this week… No, it doesn’t surprise me. I think when people finally made the connection that the diet they ate on a daily basis actually made a difference to their health there was only one way – up – for the industry.
And what of your sunny neighbours at The Happy Pear. They start each day with a handstand; you strike me as someone whose morning is going great if you can manage a legstand… Cheeky fecker! I didn’t think I was that decrepit! People start their day in all sorts of ways – some go for a run or a walk, some do yoga, some do the crossword. Whatever floats your boat. Me, I just prefer to get on with it and get stuck into whatever has to be done. I usually put in a 12-hour day, so I don’t think I’m doing too badly – for an ould fella!
With Nature’s Gold now in Rathcoole and Dunboyne, does it still feel like that little Killincarrig Road shop you opened in 1977? Or is it better now…? It still feels like it’s my baby, but it is much better now. The problem now is to find shelf space for all the products we have (over 9,000 lines), whereas in 1977 I didn’t have enough products to make the shelves look full!
Finally, tell us your guilty pleasure when it comes to unhealthy food. And keep it clean… I have a penchant for bread and cheese. A doorstep of wholewheat bread with a big hunk of mature cheddar. It sounds healthy but I assure you, it isn’t!
Now, go check out the restoration of the shopfront right here, and the Nature’s Gold mothership website right about here. Boom!
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