A Small Store with a Big Mission

Health and Wellness / Business

Shelly Ross, owner of The Natural Marketplace

The Natural Marketplace celebrates 33 years in Old Town

Photos by Luke Christopher

It may be hard to believe, but Old Town mainstay The Natural Marketplace has been here for 33 years.

Owner Shelly Ross has been a resident of Warrenton since 1980, and opened the store in 1989 when her children were old enough to start school. “I’ve always been attracted to retailing and the healing traditions,” she says. “And every town needs a health food store. Warrenton didn’t have one.”

Shelly didn’t have a true business plan, but had an instinctual affinity for merchandising, retail and quality products. Her interest in herbs, vitamins, organic food and gardening had been fostered by a close friend in Vermont who had owned a health food store in Vail, Colorado. “I learned so much from her,” she says. Shelly’s expertise has continually expanded over the years, as she has obtained multiple certifications in all aspects of health and healing. The sales associates at the store are, likewise, constantly learning from the many courses offered by experts in natural medicine. “We have all been told by many customers over the years that we have saved lives and resurrected healthy lifestyles with our caring, guidance and education. The plethora of positive feedback has kept me going. I so love helping people,” Shelly says.

Shelly raised her family as a single mother in Warrenton, and the love for this small town and the beautiful countryside inspired her children, real estate broker Tyler and chef Ryan, to settle here and operate their own businesses. “I fed them way too much tofu when they were young and they used to sneak the candy bars in the store when no one was looking. Landing on the perfect diet was/is a continual process and none of us are vegetarians at this time. We love supporting our local farms and their grass fed and organic offerings.”

The longtime home of the Natural Marketplace, the building on the corner of Waterloo and Diagonal Streets houses an impressive array of products and services.

The store in the picturesque old building at the corner of Waterloo and Diagonal Streets has been a fixture in Old Town for all these years, with an ideal location and a generous landlord. More products and services are packed into that building than you could believe. Downstairs features an impressive array of groceries, meats, produce, vitamins, supplements, herbs, aromatherapy products, and body care products——organic and/or very clean, meaning no chemicals and toxins. Shelly carries local certified organic produce and products whenever possible, and welcomes local farmers to reach out, but to maintain consistency in her stock, a lot comes from small organic distributors.

But even with so many products, the store doesn’t feel cramped. Shelly has received compliments and industry awards on not only the layout and presentation of her products, but her all-encompassing selection and quality of products from distributors and also customers from larger cities who are used to larger stores and impressed with the offerings.

Upstairs features a full organic deli that is open for lunch featuring healthy hot and cold sandwiches and wraps, soups, casseroles, smoothies, juices, and even a yummy kids menu. The food served is all-organic and cooked using the healthiest methods possible. “We don’t heat toxic oils like vegetable oil, we only use high smoke point oils like coconut oil, and we don’t use teflon on the grill. We’re very careful about how we prepare the food,” Shelly says. Catering is available for office lunches and the like.

Also, upstairs is where all their services are offered: massage, reiki, BARS, ion foot cleanses, ear candling, nutritional education, Thermography, blood cell analysis, and more. “We’re always adding services as we learn about new things,” Shelly says.

L-R Cristi Rohrbaugh, Shelly Ross, Abby Mouring, Natasha Frisk, and Margie Guttridge. Not pictured: Mary Rodgers and Sydney Jenkins.

Shelly credits her staff, co-managers Natasha Frisk and Margie Guttridge, deli manager Cristi Rohrbaugh, sales associates Abby Mouring and Mary Rodgers, admin assistant Sydney Hernandez, and bookkeeper Sandee Huntington with the success of her store. All are very knowledgeable, with years of education and certifications behind them in different specializations. “Our people are a wealth of information and education. I’m very picky with my staff,” Shelly says. “They have to be knowledgeable, and get along with the other staff and especially customers. Crabby or unhappy people don’t stay here very long. If I feel that way, I stay home for the day,” she laughs.

Being a small store, Shelly has to charge the recommended retail price on her products. But she points out their value: the most expensive vitamin you can buy is one that doesn’t work. “Many discount supplements have a synthetic base, which your body doesn’t recognize, so they are useless at best, and harmful at worst,” she explains. “Not only that, when you come to the store for supplements, you get an abundance of free, very knowledgeable advice, something you don’t get purchasing online. When customers buy their vitamins here they are saving money because we can keep them from buying something they don’t need and eliminate the possibility of getting tainted, short dated, or fake product. We have so much knowledge here that it ends up actually saving them money. Plus…doesn’t everyone personally enjoy and reap the rewards of supporting local businesses?”

Shelly values the close-knit community her store has developed over the years. “We all have something in common, we all love quality food and learning how to heal our bodies without the side effects of pharmaceutics,” she explains of her many repeat customers, sometimes up to a hundred in a day. Our customers recognize that we carry the most well-researched and professional vitamin supplements available. Many have not had success with pharmaceutical medicine and are enjoying the natural supplements that target the causes of disease, not just the symptoms.”

Shelly emphasizes, the store always eagerly welcomes any new people who are excited about eating well and improving their health in general. She wants to share the store’s mission with everyone: to educate all on the continual process of working on a higher quality of life through good food and supplements. “I don’t want people to be intimidated to come in, thinking that it’s some kind of club or clique-y health food store, it’s far from either one of those. We don’t want people to think it’s just ‘birdseed’ in here,” she jokes.

The Natural Marketplace is a store that is truly for everyone. It does not promote any specific diets like vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, or gluten-free, although they supply for all those varieties. They are there to educate and supply healthy clean food, whatever your preference. “Some people come in and say, ‘I’m ashamed to tell you what my diet’s like,’ and we emphasize that the store is a safe place to discuss and learn, because no matter how much we know, we are all human and subject to cravings and temptations. It is a welcoming and cozy atmosphere with smiling faces and customer service that goes above and beyond. It is a small store, so special orders are welcome and encouraged. Nobody should feel intimidated to come in here fearing that we’re going to judge them, because we’re not perfect either. We’re all learning and growing and trying to evolve our tastes. We all struggle at times,” Shelly says.

The Natural Marketplace
5 Diagonal St., Warrenton
FB @thenaturalmarketplace

Pam Kamphuis
About Pam Kamphuis 139 Articles
Pam Kamphuis is an editor and writer for Piedmont Virginian Magazine and Piedmont Lifestyle Magazines.

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