'Kind of a hippie'

McHENRY – Somewhere along the way, Anne Worth-Shaffer realized she couldn't be the cheapest.

Too many big-box stores or online retailers offering similar products. Worth-Shaffer, owner of Nature's Cornucopia Health Foods, came to terms with the fact that in a growing health foods and supplements industry, her niche was in having a staff with a strong knowledge of the products and their benefits, and in establishing a loyal customer base.

"The relationships that we build and the trust that we build has kept us in business," she said. "It's kept us afloat in an economy that has been pretty tough."

Competition has increased through the years for the store that will this year celebrate its 40th anniversary. Nature's Cornucopia offers organic and gluten-free foods, vitamins and supplements, books and body care products all aimed at helping individuals live healthier lives.

In the late 1980s when Worth-Shaffer was getting into a healthier lifestyle, she said she was viewed as "kind of a hippie" for so diligently watching what she ingested.

"That was before all the information and the education, along with the profitability of selling supplements," she said. "And now that's all exponential, especially with the Internet."

Now, you can find vitamins at many convenience stores, and the supplement industry has evolved in a major way.

Worth-Shaffer said she stays focused on her initial reasoning for getting into this career.

She admits she was not taking very good care of herself in the 1980s. She was a smoker and under stress as the manager of a hotel restaurant.

When she decided to change her own dietary intake, she no longer felt right about serving others food she felt was detrimental to their health. Worth-Shaffer wanted to help people feel the way she did since changing her eating habits.

So she quit her job at the restaurant and took a position at a health food market called Fruitful Yield. She learned more about healthy foods and supplements and eventually bought Nature's Cornucopia in the late 1990s.

"My health really got much better back in the '80s and '90s when I took charge," she said. "I really wanted to help people, as I'd found some people to help me. And when you find a source of employment that doesn't feel like a job, you love it."

Worth-Shaffer said she has customers come in frequently who, like her, are looking to make a change in their lifestyle.

Her philosophy is to have them start slow. Too many changes at once can be overwhelming, she said, and it's important to see how each effects the body.

"It's not just one product or two products, you need three or four, and you kind of need to let them work in you," she said. "You're building your recipe."

Worth-Shaffer said she believes that if they stick with it, her customers will see a significant payoff in the long-term. And ultimately, that's why she got into this business in the first place.

"At the end of the day, it's like, 'Wow, I did something that helps someone, and felt like I made a difference,'" she said. "And really, it is about helping people be healthier."

Nature's Cornucopia Health Foods:
What: A health foods store offering organic and gluten-free foods, vitamins, supplements, books and body care products.
Where: 1717 N. Richmond Road, McHenry
Customer appreciation day: To celebrate 40 years in business, Nature's Cornucopia on Saturday will offer 20 percent off everything in the store, as well as door prizes, samples and giveaways. Brand representatives will also be on hand to discuss their products.
Information: call 815-385-4500 or visit www.naturescornucopia.com

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