Knowledgeable Staff at Rhubarb’s Market Shines in Customer Service
Jun 26, 2015 02:22PM
● By Sheila Julson
Jill Good-Miller, Jamie Leedom, Claudia Rupp (left to right)
When Greg Henkel and his wife Sheila opened Rhubarb’s Market in 1986, it was a small mom-and-pop health food store, run only by the couple. Today, the market fills a niche in the Lancaster community and remains a viable small business, despite growing competition from larger, publicly traded natural foods stores such as Whole Foods. Greg credits his employees as being instrumental to the store’s success in the growing market.
Rhubarb’s currently has six employees: four full-time and two part-time. When hiring, Greg says he looks for people interested in the products that Rhubarb’s offers, as well as people that can communicate clearly with others and have good character. “We select responsive individuals, people that you would want to spend more time with and who are kind, courteous, enthusiastic and interested in natural foods.”
The staff practices healthy and sustainable lifestyles, and most of them were customers before they started working at Rhubarb’s. “There’s a range of interests,” observes Greg. “We have a young fellow who is vegan, and that’s his primary interest and lifestyle choice. He’s a wealth of information for customers that are already doing a vegan diet or for those interested in learning more about vegan options.”
Another employee eats mostly raw foods and is very knowledgeable about juicing. She teaches customers how to introduce different ingredients to juicing and how to eat a raw, healthy living diet.
“Other employees have broader range of good health interests and know how to prepare lesser known grains and uncommon ingredients that people are looking to incorporate into their diets,” Greg says. He strives to staff Rhubarb’s with people that are comfortable talking to others about different food choices and ingredients for a daily regimen of good health and wellness.
Jill Good-Miller started working at Rhubarb’s in 1997 while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She was excited to find a job where she was able to work with the public selling products that didn't conflict with her personal values. “Greg and Sheila have been generous employers who are flexible with their employees and mindful of the difficulties and concerns of their customers,” she says.
Greg and his staff often see parents who bring in their teenaged kids who have decided to go vegetarian or vegan. “Some of those parents are lost,” Greg chuckles. “They think that just giving the kids more fruits and vegetables is fine. But that’s where we come in, and we try to help people walk through that process of changing to a well-balanced vegetarian diet.”
Other customers have a family member who decided to make a dietary change for health reasons. Whether it is to cut down on fats, sugar or sodium, Greg says he and his staff try to be there to help people make that transition.
There is positive camaraderie among the Rhubarb’s employees, which Greg says is important in a small business setting. “You certainly want everybody to feel like it’s a family atmosphere. Everybody does seem to cooperate well and work well with others. We can bounce ideas off one another,” he notes. He relies on his staff to have a large voice in what kind of products Rhubarb’s carries, and they will often approach him with new and exciting ideas to add to the product mix. “They do a lot of reading and searching online and they have a passion for it. We learn from each other.”
Good-Miller adds that while Rhubarb's is a retail store, there is always an emphasis on helpfulness over making a sale, which she says helps develop good relationships with customers. She also feels good working for employers who make contributions to their community and to social and animal welfare groups.
There has been low staff turnover in the years that the Henkels have operated Rhubarb’s—most of the employees have been with them for six to 18 years. “It’s a loyal bunch, and they stay with us,” Greg enthuses. “That’s a positive and it shows that they enjoy working with each other.”
Rhubarb’s Market is located at 1521 Lititz Pike, in Lancaster. For more information, call 717-390-3001 or visit RhubarbsMarket.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines around the country.