A passion for helping people, as well as a desire to promote good health for all, prompted Nancy Young to leave the teaching profession and take over operation of a bulk food store in Bradford back in 1988.
Starting from that humble foundation, Young decided to move into health supplements as her mainstay product line as she wanted to ensure her friends and neighbours could live healthy, happy lives. Thus, Nancy’s Nifty Nook was born, and over the intervening 33 years, it has become the go-to place for not only high-quality health supplements, but also one-of-a-kind caring, personal service from Nancy and her staff.
The store moved to its current 2,450-square-foot location at 152 Holland Street E. a few years after opening in what was at the time a brand-new building, with better access and visibility.
“I am the type of person who just wants to help. So I am not going to sell you something for the sake of making a sale. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we have such a good reputation because people have come in and said that they trust us and that they know we’re not going to sell them something that the don’t need,” she said.
“And sometimes somebody comes in and they just need someone to talk to, and we’re here for them. So that’s a big thing too. Going the extra mile for my customers is just natural for me. And as a business owner, if you don’t have any customers, you don’t have a business. I don’t mind that sometimes they need a little extra attention. I really do try to help people as much as we can, and because we’re a small business and part of the community, people expect that and appreciate that.”
Emphasis is placed on stocking the best quality products from the most reputable suppliers, and great care has been taken to ensure as much product comes from Canada as is possible.
“I have made it so that I would say 80 to 90 per cent of my products are ‘all Canadian.’ That’s an important thing for me. I get as much local as I can. The more I can buy from Ontario suppliers the better and at the very least I try really hard to buy Canadian. This seems to be something the customers appreciate and seem to like,” Young said.
“As far as the supplements are concerned, I only carry the best. I won’t sell you anything I wouldn’t take myself or give to my grandchildren. And I make sure to use suppliers that stand behind their products. If there’s a problem, I give you your money back, because I get my money back from the supplier. Customers don’t have to worry about coming in, spending a lot of money, and going home only to find out that it doesn’t work for you.”
Over the years, Young has catered to the changing needs of her wide-ranging customer base to carry the products they need. In more recent years, with the increased stress of the world and in daily life, supplements relating to relaxation, sleep and positive mental health have become more popular, including for kids, while magnesium, Vitamin D, Omega 3 products and supplements to mitigate inflammation are consistent sellers.
In the early years of the business, she used a regular column in one of the local newspapers to promote the business by sharing information about supplements and recipes, the latter of which became hugely popular. She continues to share recipes and information, but now using social media, as well as her own website and other online avenues to favorable effect. Of course her reputation for excellence in products, services and helpfulness has meant great word of mouth advertising – the best kind in a close-knit community.
A few years back, Young noticed that many of her clients were coming in with issues related to celiac disease, anautoimmune digestive disorder that does not allow the body to process gluten, a common ingredient in many foods, including most baked goods. Already having a love for cooking and baking and seeking another way to help her fellow BWG residents stay healthy and have a fulfilling life, she added a small kitchen to Nancy’s Nifty Nook, and began offering a delicious array of baked sweet treats, from cakes, to pies to cookies and more, for her clientele. Very quickly, this became another highly popular aspect of the business.
“I was brought up on a farm and always loved to cook and bake. I also taught Family Studies for seven years and that’s when I really became interested in nutrition, because I started looking into additives and preservatives and realized it was so important to be aware of that stuff. About 10 years ago, more and more people were finding out they were celiac and the food they were having to buy was pretty awful. So I started baking here and it’s become a big part of the business. Now, I am not bragging, because I hear this from my customers, I do have a phenomenal chocolate cake and a phenomenal carrot cake that people just rave about. And for all my baked goods, you would never know the difference between my gluten-free ones and a regular cake,” she said.
“We also started selling a flour mixture that I got from a lady that worked for me that she came up with because her husband was celiac. We make up bags of it and people can buy it, take it home and make any gluten free product with a regular recipe – there’s no special mixing of this or that. And that has been a really good seller.
“I remember when I first started doing the baking, a woman came in and said, ‘Nancy, I haven’t had a proper muffin in years.’ I had just made some muffins that day and she thought it was so good. My mother used to say that it’s so nice that kids who couldn’t have a cookie before because they couldn’t have gluten, could now have a cookie. I am just so happy that I can do that for these folks.”
For more information, visit www.nancysniftynook.net. At present, the store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.