Shop Local: Family Atmosphere at Health Food Center

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Nancy Nickoloff Fox started working in her father’s store when she was a teenager and the Health Food Center of Youngstown was downtown.

Now she’s the owner, and the store, founded in 1947, is on Market Street in Boardman. Her daughter, Noelle Fox-King, works there too, and sometimes brings her children.

“I’m the second generation, and that’s the third and the fourth,” Fox says, pointing to King and King’s infant son, Ajax, 4 months.

Many customers followed when the store moved in 2003.

“I have customers whose parents shopped with my dad and their grandparents shopped with my dad,” she says. “It’s been long term.”

They like the personal touch, the family atmosphere and the fact that an employee, or Fox herself, is there to answer questions, Fox says.

The store carries vitamins and supplements; vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free foods and snacks, dye-free items, chemical-free and organic beauty products, a wide variety of teas, local honey, reiki-charged candles, drinks and toxin-free cleaning products.

It started out offering salt- and sugar-free foods. “Before you had almond milk in the grocery store, we had almond flour that you made your own milk out of,” Fox says.

The latest popular items include drink mixes made from lion’s mane mushrooms and deodorant in compostable packaging.

Fox’s interest in supplements and natural products started with her father and the store’s founder, Cyril Nickoloff.

“I always believed, you are what you eat …,” she says. “And you are what you think.”

She stresses that she’s not there to cure people, but she can answer questions about what distinguishes one product or supplement from another.

For Fox, her business isn’t about making money.

“Yes, I have to stay in the black. But I am not motivated by money alone,” she says. “Did you help someone? Did you show them what they needed?”

She believes the personal touch of greeting customers and asking if they need help is an important part of her business.

Pictured at top: Nancy Nickoloff Fox, owner of the Health Food Center of Youngstown, stands inside the store with her daughter, Noelle Fox-King, and grandson, Ajax King.