Nature’s Pantry expands, remodels, marks quarter century in business

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer January 11, 2012 10:26 pm

Linda and Dennis Clayville recently completed an expansion and remodel of their Nature’s Pantry store on Fourth Street near Washington Avenue. The couple will celebrate their 25th year in business Feb. 2-3 with an open house. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer
Linda and Dennis Clayville recently completed an expansion and remodel of their Nature’s Pantry store on Fourth Street near Washington Avenue. The couple will celebrate their 25th year in business Feb. 2-3 with an open house. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer

After 25 years of helping Union County residents stay healthy, Linda and Dennis Clayville figure it’s time for a little celebration.

And with a long-dreamed-of expansion of their Nature’s Pantry store in downtown La Grande complete, the time is more than right. In early February, they’re planning an open house to show off their bigger, brighter store and all it has to offer health-conscious people.

“People ask us why we’re expanding when we’re at the age when we could retire. We say it’s because we love what we do,” Linda Clayville said.

In one way or another, the Clayvilles have been involved with health and nutrition since they came to La Grande in 1970.

Dennis’s uncle, Don Dempsey, built the Valley View Manor nursing home on west Adams Avenue in 1964. The Clayvilles came to La Grande to run the facility.

For 16 years, they were nursing home administrators and,  eventually, owners. Then they decided to sell the facility (which survives today as the Evergreen Vista Health Center) and go into another business.

Both had business degrees, and both had a passion for health and nutrition. They believed La Grande needed and wanted a store selling  the best in vitamins, herbs, fresh organic produce and other nutritional products.

“We decided to open Nature’s Pantry because there wasn’t a nice large store in La Grande selling those kinds of things,” Linda said.

Nature’s Pantry started out in a location on Adams Avenue in July 1986. Though the owners passionately believed in the mission they’d carved out for themselves, they found it challenging.

Business was slow at first. But they stuck with it and built a loyal clientele.

“It was a struggle getting a little business going in a little town, but finally it turned around and started growing. We’ve been happy, our customers have been happy, and the store’s survived a couple of economic downturns,” Linda said.

In 1988, the Clayvilles switched locations, moving to the New Town Square Building on Fourth Street near Washington. They’ve been there ever since.

The building is owned by Al Adelsberger, a businessman who splits his time between Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Joseph in Wallowa County. Lately, Adelsberger has been upgrading the property.

Last year, with help from the City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency, Adelsbeger built new sidewalks around the building, upgraded signage, planted shrubbery and added new street lamps. He is making improvements on the building’s interior now.

Good fortune played a hand for the Clayvilles around the same time Adelsberger started upgrading the property.

 In April, Yellow Book, the telephone directory publisher that did business next door to Nature’s Pantry, elected to leave New Town Square. The Clayvilles had been dealing with space issues for quite some time, and saw a chance to grow.

“For about the last three years, we felt like we needed more room. People couldn’t pass in the aisles without bumping into each other,” Linda said.

After some negotiations  with the landlord, work began. A wall separating the two stores was torn out, and new fixtures were added. Dennis Clayville did most of the work himself, though he had some help from a couple of professional carpenters.

The Nature’s Pantry store grew by 1,500 feet. That’s allowed the owners to expand existing product lines, and add a new line of supplements.

Customers have more to choose from, and the store’s five full-time and five part-time employees have more room to move around in.

Though the remodel was complete the end of September, the Clayvilles decided to wait awhile for the official unveiling, and for celebrating their 25th business anniversary, which actually passed last July. They’ve set Feb. 2-3 for their open house.

Those days, they’ll be offering 25 percent off selected products, doing 25 drawings for prizes, and offering 25  food items to sample.

Linda Clayville said the event is a fine way to top off a quarter-century in business.

“We’re to the point now where we’re doing business with the children of the people who were new customers when we first opened. We love La Grande and the people, and we love helping them find better health,” she said.