Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Edition
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Naturally Motivated

 

Although Joseph Kressley’s interest in health and fitness began as a youngster, he never imagined himself as the new owner of Green Earth Natural Foods (formerly Queens of Emmaus), in Emmaus. As a small child, he was overweight and often bullied. A combination of overeating and eating the wrong foods contributed to his obesity, but as he progressed into his teenage years, he began to take control of his diet—even shopping for his own food.

Along the way, other factors in his life caused him to stay on his path toward overall health and wellness. His mother died of complications from diabetes in her 50s and about two years ago, his sister, also in her early 50s, passed away after suffering from heart disease. “Their deaths motivated me to want to live healthier,” he says.

Kressley spent 23 years of his career in a completely different industry: swimming pools. He was a district manager for a pool company, but as the economy began to dwindle, so did sales. He knew it was time for a change and began thinking about his future when fate stepped in. “Green Earth came up for sale,” he explains. “I didn’t set out to buy a health food store, but in fell in my lap and it just felt like a perfect opportunity and a great fit.” In November 2012, he became the new owner.

He says that his wife, Wendy, was a driving force behind his decision. “She’s been my inspiration for the last 16 years,” he says. “She is a vegan and we have found very few places in the area that we can go eat. Although we’re not a restaurant, our thought process was that we could help people like her by providing sandwiches and other vegan options for sale.”

He has two employees, Linda Bossard, who has years of experience, and Chris Deiter, who has been with Green Earth more than a year. Both are highly knowledge and invaluable to Kressley.

“This is a very friendly environment that’s like family,” he notes. “The girls are just outstanding and the three of us make a great team.”

When he purchased the store, Kressley had no plans to change anything, but in the end, he essentially changed everything. The core products are the same, but now, the shelves are full. Instead of having a special order list pages long, those products are kept in stock. His goal is to have a depth and variety of product that sells.

“We try to be unique in our product choices and we’re learning what sells and what doesn’t,” he explains. “For example, we make our own peanut butter on the premises and we sell it for less than the big supermarkets, so it’s a big seller.”

Quality is always key when it comes to choosing any product. He says first and foremost, they listen to customers and what they like. Next, they do their research. “My passion is learning,” says Kressley. “Whether it’s about vitamins, supplements, spices or coffee, it’s just fascinating to me. Manufacturers often have courses you can take and we often take advantage of that. We’re diligent about what we put on the shelves.”

And what’s on the shelves is a little bit of everything, it seems. Bulk spices, seasonings and more (such as oats, flour, healthy snacks, dried nuts and fruit) are packaged at the store so it’s more cost effective for the customer.

High quality coffee and teas are available, many of which are hand-picked for their mission. Profits from the sale of Ajiri Tea, for example, directly benefits the women, children and farmers of western Kenya by providing jobs and educational assistance. “The labels are designed and handcrafted by women in the Kisii region of Kenya using dried bark from banana trees.”

Other items include energy shakes; a gluten-free section; sustainable and recycled paper products; tableware; a small section featured Oriental foods; canned goods such as sauces and marinades; apple cider vinegar; coconut oil; 100 percent fruit juices; and a refrigerated section featuring kombucha, natural soda, sandwiches, local milk and milk products and pre-packaged vegan sandwiches and vegan cheeses, salads and mayonnaise.

Committed to supporting other local businesses, Green Earth also carries granola, salsa and hummus—all from small, local companies. “It’s important to me to make connections to people who live in the community,” states Kressley. “Local businesses need to stick together. I’m proud to be a small business owner and I want to give back and show my support. The more local products I have, the better.”

All natural shampoos, soaps, body lotion, washes, toothpaste and other personal care items also line the shelves. An aromatherapy section showcases essential oils and another section has numerous vitamins, minerals, supplements, herbs and homeopathic remedies.

The ultimate goal is to give customers—both new and old—a great experience. This is done not only by providing superior service, but also by hosting live tastings, demonstrations and being involved in the community.

For Kressley, finding daily inspiration is easy. “I’m just so excited about what I’m doing,” he says. “Plus, I always have my sister to remember. She’s always there motivating me.”

Green Earth Natural Foods is located at 1328 Chestnut St., in Emmaus. For more information, call 610-965-5767.

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