When David and Rhonda Marston brought their health food store and natural therapy clinic, Essentially Healthy You Wellness Emporium in Whitebridge, the last thing they were expecting was to have to deal with was a global pandemic the week after they opened.
Thankfully, they managed to survive and now thrive!
I spoke with David to find out how business is going and why we all could do with a Naturopath in our lives.
Thanks for the chat, David. Lots of us on the Altitude team enjoy visiting your health food shop in Whitebridge. Tell us about how you ended up in Lake Macquarie?
I was raised in Bathurst and I started my practice as a Naturopath there in 1998. Some friends and I got together, and we began Macquarie Natural Therapies, a massage and natural therapies clinic. My wife Rhonda and I moved to Newcastle in 2009.
What prompted the sea change?
I got sick of the cold weather! Bathurst is a country town, so Naturopathy is relatively niche there. I wanted to move to a bigger city so that I could further my skill level. In 2008, I talked to a rep from Newcastle at my clinic and casually mentioned that it was time for a change and we’d considered moving to Newcastle. A week after that conversation, the rep returned and told me that he knew someone with a clinic in Newcastle who had expressed an interest in me working with them.
Was Rhonda on board?
Rhonda had been building her own business as a Remedial Massage Therapist at the Bathurst clinic. She’d previously worked for a newspaper and then in TV before retraining as a Remedial Massage Therapist. Both of our families lived in the Central West so it was a big adjustment when we moved to the coast, but it’s home now.
What made you buy the Whitebridge business?
My mother was very alternative and health-conscious, well before it became trendy. Sadly she is no longer alive, but she always wanted to buy a health-food business. Back when I was 20, we tried to buy a shop in Bathurst but it fell through, so I always had it in the back of my mind as a dream. After ten years working at the clinic in Hamilton, Rhonda and I saw the health-food business and clinic for sale in Whitebridge. The opportunity felt right, and fulfilled our dreams. The shop is in a perfect position, next to a busy cafe and popular butcher, so we are in a thriving area where the community gathers.
Was it quite terrifying opening a new business in the lockdown?
It was a tough time. We could open as we were classified as an essential service, but we couldn’t get any stock. However, we struggled through with the support of the amazing local community and now have a great range of new products, which turned the business around for us.
As a Naturopath, I previously would send my clients to a health store, and they would come back with products that didn’t have any nutritional value, or be of poor quality or not organic. It frustrated me that my clients were being sold a product that was of minimal benefit to them. I wanted to have a business where I could take the patient out from the clinic and show them exactly what they needed. It has been a joy being able to furnish the store with brands and products I know really work.
Rhonda and yourself both work in the shop and the clinic. How does that work?
Rhonda works as a Remedial Massage Therapist from her home clinic, serves in the shop, and handles the administration side of the business. When Rhonda is seeing clients, I’m in the shop and vice versa. It keeps us busy!
Why should someone see a Naturopath?
Naturopaths are very good at treating the underlying root causes of health issues. A naturopath will delve deeply into the client’s lifestyle and food intake to find causal links. My approach is to find the cause of an issue and to work with the client to formulate an ongoing plan to correct what is happening. Naturopaths are known to go significantly deeper to fix the problem. Quite often, it’s not as easy as just taking a tablet. Lifestyle plays a huge part.
It must be hard to find time for yourself as a small business owner? How do you look after your own health needs?
At my former clinic, I could finish at six and leave work behind. Whereas now it’s pretty full on. It’s a definite change now we’re running our own business and a rather tricky process getting the balance right. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at it, but it’s a work in progress. However, I take great delight in being near the water. During my downtime, I like to walk with Rhonda along Redhead Beach or go for a bike ride along the Fernley Track.
Finally, is there any product that you’ve found that is a bit of a revelation?
I believe a hundred per cent in the medicinal value of mushrooms such as Reishi and Shitake mushrooms. We stock various mushroom powders and tinctures. I have a lot of passion for that area.
Thanks for the chat, David. To make an appointment with David or Rhonda, call 02 494 30984 or visit their website at essentiallyhealthyyou.com.au.