by Sheila Julson
Twenty years ago, the nation was just beginning to rediscover nature’s remedies and the advantages of preventive health care. Yet Randy and Liz Lee, husband and wife, were on the cutting edge of the holistic health resurgence when they opened Midwest City’s first vitamin and herbal supplement store, Nana’s Pawpaw Patch, in 1997. Last April, they rebranded the store to The Health Patch to better reflect what they offer: a vast selection of herbal supplements, vitamins, therapeutic teas and healthy snacks, as well as knowledgeable staff to guide patients to achieve total wellness.
Lee, who has a background in music, got started researching herbal and natural health options because he knew people suffering from ailments not serious enough to need a physician’s attention but still undesirable to deal with on a daily basis. He also talked to people discontented with the current medical system and sought alternatives.
“About 25 years ago, I determined that I wanted to do something in the healthcare field,” he recalls. “I did a year’s worth of research and determined that the future would be good for alternative health, so I began to study that. We opened a store and learned more about herbs and how to use them.”
Inspired by the nicknames given to them by their seven grandchildren, the Lees opened Nana’s Pawpaw Patch in a 1,000-square-foot location on S. Douglas Boulevard. About 12 years ago, they moved up the street to a larger, 2,600-square-foot location. Now operating under The Health Patch, Lee says he and three of his employees have naturopathic doctor degrees from Trinity School of Natural Health, in Indiana. Another employee was a registered nurse for 25 years and is a founder of The Earth Natural Foods.
Lee says their knowledgeable staff is committed to providing personalized attention to guide customers to achieve wellness through prevention. “We empower people to treat body functions that may generate or contribute to diseases,” Lee says.
The Health Patch employees have all been with Lee for 10 years or more. They provide private consults and “in-aisle consults,” offering assistance and answering questions. Lee says the store has a loyal customer base, and most people don’t just stop in, look around and buy something, but instead seek the personalized attention the staff provides.
The Health Patch offers a full array of vitamins and supplements, encapsulated and bulk herbs, essential oils and teas. The store also has some snack items, natural sweeteners, sea salt and flours, but Lee says the focus is on herbal supplements and vitamins, since there are many options now throughout the Oklahoma City area for natural and organic foods.
Top customer favorites include Nature’s Sunshine products—the first brand the Lees carried when they opened 20 years ago—KAL Nutraceutical, Nature’s Plus, and Terry Naturally, best known for its curcumin products. Lee has recently added Host Defense organic mushroom supplements. “We have items from about 105 different distributors,” Lee notes. “We ask customers what they would buy, and most items we carry are from customer requests.”
In the 20 years Lee has been in the natural health business, he’s seen amazing changes in the way society embraces holistic care. “Our clientele is more educated, and people are doing research on the internet and through books to determine what it is they want. They’re educated in the area in which they want help,” he observes. “Most people 20 years ago marveled at the novelty of a health store; now more people know their direction.” He’s also noticed growth of the industry in general.
Lee and his employees are motivated when they see customers that had originally come in with ailments are now no longer sick, thanks to guidance from The Health Patch team. “We look for people wanting to put the effort into taking charge of their health and want somebody to help guide them,” he says. “When somebody comes in and says, ‘I was sick, and now I’m not sick anymore,’ that’s very therapeutic for us.”
The Health Patch is located at 1024 S. Douglas Blvd., Midwest City. For more information, call 405-736-1030 or visit TheHealthPatch.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.