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Apples to Apples – Health Food Stores Shine

Brenda Davis is a walking advertisement for Apple Crate, the local business she owns.

An energetic and vibrant woman, Davis looks far too young to have grown children, which she does. She will tell you it’s her natural approach to life – and in embracing that lifestyle, she laid the foundation for a growing business that has beaten all odds. Apple Crate has not only survived for more than a decade but expanded into a second location.

Back in the mid-1990s, when her children were still little, Davis committed to bringing them up in the healthiest way possible. She had suffered from allergies, asthma and related health problems, and she didn’t want her children to suffer the same fate. So she began to read about all the chemical additives that we confront in our daily lives, whether they appear in our processed food or in other products we use. She learned about the sensitivities that some people have even to natural ingredients, such as wheat, gluten, soy or dairy products.

As she became more knowledgeable about natural products, she realized she wasn’t alone. There was a market – a growing market – interested in finding healthier and organic foods, more natural remedies for minor health problems and environmentally-friendly household products. Thus, in 1997, Apple Crate was born at its first location in Hope Mills. For a decade, Davis recalls, the sales grew and she “reinvested, reinvested and reinvested” in the business.

The second location of Apple Crate, on Raeford Road, opened last year. On a recent mid-day visit to that location, shopping traffic was brisk. Upon opening the door, a delightfully spicy aroma, generated by an Aroma Naturals candle, welcomes shoppers. Wandering up and down the aisles, marveling at the esoteric assortment of products, a shopper could hear customers asking Davis and the other knowledgeable staff about recommendations for an adult with low energy, or a hyperactive child, or sinusitis.

In the course of a week, Davis and her staff field a myriad of such inquiries and are always happy to help folks find just the right natural solution. In July, Davis received certification as a Natural Health Professional, and that credential has been well-earned by study and at work in her stores.

Three major categories of products make up the inventory at Apple Crate – food, health and wellness products, including items for the home such as candles and cleaning products. Within the food category, one can find, among many other delicacies, large and lovely organic apples, tubes of vanilla beans, a vegetarian chili mix, rice lasagna, frozen cinnamon sugar doughnuts, macadamia-nut butter and Royal Jelly. Royal Jelly is a nutritional supplement, rich in B vitamins, and said to increase energy levels in those who use it.

In the health and personal products shelves, I was intrigued to find a soap made from goat’s milk, salt toothpaste, a line of hair dyes called NaturTint, emu oil and an intriguing device designed to rinse out one’s sinus cavities.

Apple Crate will soon be certified as a green business by Sustainable Sand-hills, a fact of which Davis is justifiably proud.

“We care about the environment,” Davis says, “and we recycle as much as we can. And we offer a 5-cent rebate for any shoppers who bring their own bags.”

Davis acknowledges that many of her most loyal customers are people who initially stopped by because of something they’ve read in a magazine or seen on a popular television program.

“We love Oprah,” she says, “and Dr. Oz, who is on her show a lot. Any time we start getting a lot of inquiries on a specific topic, we know that they’ve been watching Oprah.”

Davis says some people are becoming interested in natural products because they believe that the human body is a temple, something to be treated with respect and as naturally as possible.

Whatever draws anyone into Apple Crate, Davis wants them to find a pleasant atmosphere and good customer service.

“I think helping people help themselves through natural products, providing them with the information they need to do that safely is what our business is about,” she says.

Apple Crate has two locations, at 2711 Raeford Road, adjacent to Great Harvest Bakery, and at 5430 Camden Road in Hope Mills. Both locations are open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday - Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.