Healthy Treasures Goes Gluten-Free for Growth

NEWTON FALLS, Ohio — Four years ago Synthia Suzelis went through something every business owner fears: fire destroyed her store, Healthy Treasures. While much of the building at 40 W. Broad St. remained intact, the business was a total loss.

“So we started over four doors down from where we’re at with just a bunch of cell phones and a couple of chairs,” says Blake Suzelis, Synthia’s son and manager of the store. “Within a few months we got things rolling.”

Today the store is back at its original address and preparing to expand. Healthy Treasures offers foods and products that promote a healthful diet and regimen.

Among its offerings are supplements, fresh produce, frozen foods, soaps and deodorants.

“We’ve found that people are just looking for this,” Synthia Suzelis says of the products they offer. She had been practicing holistic medicine a decade before opening the store in 1995.

“We sold health foods and antiques,” she recalls. “We tried to get people in with the antiques and sell them on the health food.”

Today no such inducements are needed. While Healthy Treasures was busy getting back on its feet, people across the country were acquiring a taste for more healthful foods, gluten-free foods in particular.

A 2013 survey by the NPD Group, a global information company, found that 30% of Americans are trying to avoid eating gluten. In January, market research publisher Packaged Facts reported sales of gluten-free foods had risen 34% over the last five years.

“I think it’s people realizing that they’re not feeling well and they want to figure out why,” Blake Suzelis says.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that causes digestive problems for people with celiac disease. Recent studies have shown that even people who test negative for the disease can have an aversion to gluten.

That demand is responsible for Healthy Treasures newest addition, a gluten-free bakery in the back of the store.

“We have gourmet salads with organic produce,” says Suzelis. “We have soups, lunch bowls” and coffee roasted nearby, he adds.

Barbara Drake and her friends have been coming to the bakery since it opened about a month ago.

“I usually stop in after yoga, and sometimes before too,” Drake jokes. “Everything is really healthy and clean and organic.”

Adds her friend, Kelsey Walker, “I’ve been telling everyone to come down here because this place can’t close.”

The coffee supplier to Healthy Treasures gets its beans from all over the world, then brings them back to Berea to roast them.

“They roast them on Monday; we get them Wednesday,” Suzelis states.

The gluten-free movement is only one aspect of a trend that’s finding more people increasingly seeking out locally sourced, healthful food options.

Data released last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that Americans are consuming fewer calories and choosing foods with greater nutritional value.

As a result, many fast-food chains are experiencing a drop in sales while restaurants such as Panera Bread and Chipotle, which in April removed all GMOs – genetically modified organisms – from its food, are seeing their sales surge.

But food is only one aspect of Healthy Treasures’ approach to wellness. Next to the store is its sister company, Health Advocate Services Inc.

There, people receive treatment from the company’s alternative practitioners, among them Blake’s older brother, Ted, a naturopathic physician. Other services are massotherapy, reflexology and thermography.

“So now we have all of that going on and we have a holistic spa that’s run by my daughter Ashley,” Synthia Suzelis says.

Blake, a licensed clinical therapist, also sees patients there.

A few doors away is Healthy Treasures’ third storefront, which houses a studio used for yoga and lectures. “If someone’s looking for a healthier lifestyle I think we’ve got it covered,” Synthia says.

All of Healthy Treasures services will be on full display June 5 and 6 when it holds its grand re-opening.

In observance of its 20th anniversary, the store will hold 20 workshops, including sushi demonstrations, yoga in the park and coffee brewing. There will also be live music and raffles.

“In 1995, we drew people from all around but rarely from Newton Falls,” says Suzelis, noting that community support is increasing.

She hopes the grand re-opening will help Healthy Treasures spread its message of healthful living and attract more patrons from the area.

“We’re trying to put Newton Falls on the map as the healthiest little town in northeast Ohio,” Suzelis says.

Pictured: Blake Suzelis manages Healthy Treasures and is a licensed clinical therapist.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.