Articles

Down to Earth Hawaii: Community & Planet In a Shopping Cart


[Music Playing] We Started in 1977. The first store was in Wailuku, Maui. And the Wailuku store you know was like back in those days it was just like concrete floors The shelves were just like wooden planks on concrete blocks so they couldn’t be adjusted About 20 years ago I had a smaller farm than this, and I just walked in to the Down to Earth in Wailuku and Bobby was running a forklift And I asked him, “I have a little bit of fruit… I’m growing… would you be interested?” And he was very supportive. Immediately goes, “Yeah, we love to support local farmers.” In 1977, Down To Earth appears right down the street. And…I joke about it that it really saved my life having Down to Earth right nearby The King Street store started at the Ewa end of the store it was like about 600 square feet or so. And over the years we expanded to take up the whole space I’ve worked for a year and a half now with Mark Ferguson on the HOFA board And it has been very good and very impressive how he was able to take leadership Without any personal agenda. Where he put all his personal feelings and Down To Earth in the background And tried to do the best thing that’s possible for the organic industry and agriculture in Hawaii The Association with Down to Earth with the vegetarian society has been a really grand partnership And it began… it’s almost as old as the vegetarian society itself So it’s been over 20 years. and Down to Earth provides membership discounts for our members And we’re really glad of that In 1996 we opened the Kahului store. And after that we closed the Wailuku store In 2000, we opened the Kailua store and also the Pearlridge store And in 2012, we opened the Kapolei store which is our largest store at ten thousand square feet. We have cooking classes that we hold at our store locations We also have partnerships with people in the community like schools, hospitals… So very much we’re a community resource. We’re making parts available that are good for people and good for the environment We hold lectures at various store locations. Health and wellness lectures where community doctors and experts in their fields would come in And teach how to classes And we’re educating people about how to live a lifestyle That’s better for them, better for their families, better for their communities [Music Playing] We developed with the UH Hawaiian Studies Department our Hawaiian message or slogan And very much it was inspired by the state motto, you know that… “The life of the land is perpetuated in Righteousness” And to us this really means righteousness is right action or doing the right thing, taking care of the land So very much organic agriculture, supporting the local business community And providing good foods for the local inhabitants of Hawaii and also being vegetarian These are all for us, very “pono” or right action. For us it’s been a real joy to work with Down To Earth because of that. You know, because I think, you do understand what living close to the earth and organic means. We wanted them to not just sell our product but sell the culture Sell the fact that it’s healthier than potatoes and rice and that we have the Superfood. So that was the one reason thought Down To Earth was the best fit for Waipio Valley We really try to look for local products whether it’s local skin care, local supplements and certainly local produce Anything that we can find that’s good quality vegetarian, local, organic and natural, we try to provide Probably the most exciting part of the job, you know outside of customers… outside of customer service Being able to directly communicate and purchase from farmers that are within two to ten miles from here First time we saw the Down to Earth we were growing bananas, avocados and lychee… Eight years ago when we started. Yeah. I think down to earth was our first account. That’s right They were really nice and friendly This was over 20 years ago and we brought the product in I didn’t know very much back then, and So we just began the relationship at that point And we’ve always loved shopping at Down To Earth before that So it was one of our first places to think about selling to Obviously when you buy local, you’re supporting the local community I know a lot of local farmers and this is their living. Their subsistence living. And you know, we put dollars directly back into the community. And I can tell you that I purchase twice as much local, in dollars, twice as much local product is Sold through here than mainland product I think one of the things that I appreciate about Down To Earth and being able to market with them Is the ability to connect with the local people and the residents in this community I think that’s really important I love the variety and I love that Down To Earth supports local agriculture That’s something that’s really important to me… so I really appreciate both of those things. The customer can appreciate the local product and we really do appreciate you doing that business That’s connecting those consumers And with Down To Earth, you know when I talk to people there, it’s always “Oh, what do you have going now? What’s coming on that’s great?” That’s what’s wonderful about Lambert. What do you got going? What do you have a lot of? How can I help you? I’m from Japan so a little used to that kind of connection. A kind of bond together. And connected each other. So I think Down To Earth is local and really tight community [Music Playing] Down To Earth is sort of one of the pioneers here in Hawaii. And has really sort of helped to prepare the fertile grounds for other…for the local food movement. The organic food movement that’s going on. It’s important to reduce the number of chemicals in the food and the pesticides And the genetically modified foods so I personally appreciate the philosophy of Down To Earth You know we focus on organic, local and it’s always super fresh Because all our local produce is super fresh. I mean I can get product in here that’s harvested same morning And it’s in the store withing hours. It’s very positive to see that Down To Earth already has the solutions It already has opportunities for people to buy good food, to learn more about cooking and eating healthy It’s our farm philosophy not to use a lot of chemicals and not to use a lot of pesticides So it fit in really well with our philosophy on the farm. I come here all the time because this is the only store that has the most organic vegetables in all of Oahu In the Deli we put to practice what we talk about in policy as far as the store goes We have our natural, local, organic options and we actually put them and cook them And serve them for people on a daily basis I think the biggest reason I come here is the salad bar is, like firing… you know it’s super good. And I can tell there’s a lot of love in the food The food is very good and it’s consistent. It’s very consistent. We love it. Everything we do, we make with love. It’s true A lot of times you go the other grocery stores and you kind of look and you’re like “Ewww… I don’t know about that, I don’t know about that. What is that?” And here all the ingredients I can actually pronounce, I can understand what they are. And I can research them. Everything in the store you can trust, you know you can pick up anything in the store and eat it And feel like you’ve done a good thing for yourself. And I love the fact that I can come here and pull anything off the shelf and I don’t have to read the label I like that Down To Earth continues to be an advocate, proponent for organic and local food production [Music Playing] At Down to Earth, I mean we’re very down to earth campaign so we’re not… there’s nothing fake or artificial about us We believe in what we’re doing. We’re a very mission driven company. We’re in the natural products business. We’re selling local and organic foods. We’re a vegetarian company. We do what we believe in. We’re passionate about it And our customers appreciate that. And when I walk through the door, what brings me to Down To Earth and not the other health food stores in town Cause I could go to any of the other ones too. What kept me coming back here. Is when I first through the door, the way that I’m greeted, from the tellers that don’t leave because the love their job From the managers that don’t leave, because this is a part of their family To Michael at the hot bar who’s just everyday like with a hug and a smile And they just remember your name. And it’s just that genuine feeling. So it’s beyond just the natural organic food. It’s the energy that goes along with the environment Down To Earth has been a local company for years back since the Seventies. And unlike a lot of companies, they have stuck to their philosophy Of doing good for the community, providing food that is clean, that is free of pesticides That is free of junk. And I personally respect that a lot.That’s one of the reasons why I work with Down To Earth I couldn’t believe how well schooled the staff in the vitamin isles are about supplements. I mean you walk into a lot of stores and you ask them a question and sometimes you get like a deer trapped in the headlights They don’t know what you’re talking about These people are asking questions and knew facts when I gave a training one time that blew me away I mean this is the best staff I think I’ve seen in any store not just in Hawaii But really pretty much across the country I’ve always experienced excellent customer service. Ever since I’ve come here. Everyone seems really happy and very welcoming Very helpful. Everyone always goes out of their way to help me find if I need something Especially in our wellness department. You know, They’re very knowledgeable All our team members and they give great customer service. And a lot of people come back just for certain particular team members Because they get a really nice relationship with them. When you have companies like Down To Earth that stick to their integrity over the years. And they just keep expanding and doing this for the community You just want to be a part of that positivity and spread it everywhere. I think it seems like every person that gets hired here has a good heart. Like a nice person. We love Carmela she brought us in in the beginning and she’s always been just a great person to talk to She’s always been interested in us I think customer service is where we really shine in the wellness department Whenever we’re talking to Carmela it’s always like, “How are you guys doing!” and it’s like talking to a friend. You know that we haven’t seen for a while. It’s really exciting to have people come back and give us positive feedback And tell us how much we’ve helped them. And how much they’re grateful And we’re grateful to be able to do it. I really feel welcomed here every time I show up. That the personnel will say hello to me and if I have any questions, they’ll come up to me and answer my questions the best they can. [Music Playing] We don’t sell natural foods and organic foods and we’re not a vegetarian company because it’s a good way to make money The reality is because we take such positions as being a vegetarian company That’s actually reducing our sales by at least twenty percent So few health food stores really have the principles where they really are living what they do. I mean almost everyone on your staff is a vegetarian because you’re part of your principles That you don’t take any animal products in the store. I personally think Down To Earth is a special company first and foremost, Because of what we stand for. Our integrity as a company. We like our team members to appreciate and understand that we are a values driven company. We want them to support our mission. Not that they have to be a vegetarian, or anything like that. They look for quality. They don’t want to take in just junk. They want to sell stuff that they can feel happy that they’re selling because they believe in the product This is I think really is the core of any business. If the people believe it. They’re gonna do it better than other companies. They’re gonna be standing behind the products. And I just like that integrity as someone who I work for It’s just great to be in the community no matter where I’m at and say, “I work for Down to Earth” I’d be able to share all the wonderful things that we do here at Down to Earth. The genuine positive vibes. Through the food. Through the environment. Through the people. Through the customer service You know any company that’s got love life, be healthy, eat healthy, be happy is awesome. You know, it’s gotta be a great company to work for, right? Just to me… that’s like pure love. What more can you ask for? Love Life! [Laughter] [Music Playing]

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