Hinesville health-and-wellness retailer Farmer’s Natural Foods marked its 31st year in business with an anniversary celebration, during which customers were welcomed into the store for special savings, in-store demonstrations, food tastings and samples. The observance ran May 1-3.
Store owners Jerry and Roberta Poppell said they were excited to see their regular customers and some new faces. Farmer’s employees kept sample trays stocked and manned the grill to whip up non-dairy grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, all-natural sausage and other munchies. Free mini chair massages also were offered.
Associate Robin Groover said the store works with its vendors to arrange for customers to sample products and listen to representatives who come to talk about their products. This year, she said, Farmer’s received an enthusiastic response from vendors and suppliers.
“It’s wonderful,” Groover said. “We received a lot of support this year. Companies were very gracious and sent us quite a bit of product samples.”
The store’s anniversary is a great time for customers to learn about products, and it allows Farmer’s to thank customers for their business, said co-owner Roberta Poppell. Over the weekend, more than a dozen vendors participated in the event, and many other companies sent samples or donated food, according to Poppell.
Todd Hotaling, a representative from Kava King, an instant kava drink-mix company, said he enjoys the opportunity to showcase the companies’ products. He gave out small kava drink and kava chocolate samples to customers, educating them about the natural beverage that reportedly has calming effects.
“Many people may have heard of kava but have never tried it before, so in-store demos are a great way for them to experience it and try the different flavors,” he said. “It also gives us the opportunity to educate customers about the product and tell them how to use it properly.”
Jerry Poppell, Farmers’ founder and co-owner, said he could not have imagined 31 years ago that the business would expand into what it has become today.
He said he started the business when all-natural and organic products were not common. At the time, he was changing his lifestyle and eating habits and found there were no stores in Liberty County where consumers could buy natural-wellness products. He decided to meet that need by establishing a small store.
“I was always checking out other health stores when I would visit other towns and somewhere it became obvious that I either needed to move to a place that had what I needed or start something here in my own community,” he said. “I’m from Hinesville, so I decided to give it a shot here.”
Poppell said that Farmer’s Natural Foods started in a smaller location just across Veterans Parkway in what now is the Hinesville Western Store. The building was an old, country-style home that he fixed up and turned into a store, he said.
He ran the store solo for seven years as a bachelor. Along the way, Poppell met his wife, Roberta, through the wellness industry and they ran the store together in its original location for two more years.
Eventually, the Poppells decided they needed more square footage to meet customers’ needs and make room for a growing line of wellness products.
“The store just got to be too small for the amount of products. Customers were having a hard time finding things because it was so cramped,” Roberta Poppell said.
They built a new structure at the store’s current location on E.G. Miles Parkway. It was about half the size it is now. After several more years, they expanded again to add a kitchen and smoothie bar, more shelf space and more floor space so they could host special events.
“We are always talking to our customers about the products, so as we expanded, we wanted to do more to educate customers. So we added the additional space to hold events and seminars,” Robetta Poppell said.
Customer Lakeysha Daniels Williams said she shops at Farmer’s for the wide selection of products and the knowledgeable staff. A Hinesville resident, Daniels Williams has been shopping for vegetarian products at Farmer’s for the past year.
“I can find everything I need in one place, and they have excellent salespeople here who are knowledgeable and can talk to you about the products,” she said. “You can find a store like this, but without knowledgeable staff, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
Over the past three decades, the Poppells have seen a lot of changes in the Hinesville community and they said they’re proud to be a part of it. They stressed their gratitude for the community’s longstanding support and plan to continue weekend wellness events on the first weekend of every month in addition to the annual anniversary celebration.