You may know them by the infamous blue shirt they wear, by the friendly “hello” or “can I help you find something” they offer as you peruse the aisles or by their vast product knowledge and unending commitment to customer service. These characteristics make up the Heinen’s associate.
At Heinen’s, we believe “you have to find the best to sell the best,” and this includes finding the best people! Our vision begins with those who wear the Heinen’s blue shirt; they are what makes shopping with Heinen’s memorable and enjoyable.
So, let’s get to know the people behind the blue shirt! Today, we’re talking to Talia, Heinen’s Bannockburn Wellness Consultant who says her co-workers and her customers have become an extension of her family.
How long have you been a part of Heinen’s Wellness Department?
I started working here 7 ½ years ago, just as Heinen’s was opening its first stores in Chicagoland. I had been working for a summer camp specializing in therapeutic weight loss for teens and adults. I was searching for a job in wellness and found out about the opportunity at Heinen’s. I interviewed, got the job and started the week after the Bannockburn location’s grand opening.
What led you to a career in wellness?
I have always been a very active person. I love playing sports. I love hiking. I just love being outside. Unfortunately, my family hasn’t always been in good health, but I’ve always been motivated to help them be healthier by acting as a supportive resource.
I received my undergraduate degree in Health Sciences from University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in central Wisconsin and a Master’s in Health and Sports Psychology and Administration from Fresno State in California. Over the course of my career, I studied with the head sports psychologist for the Canadian Olympic team and had an opportunity to work with an academy for elite athletes but decided to pursue a career where I could have more of a normal life and family.
How would you describe what Heinen’s Wellness Department is all about?
It’s not just a department. It’s really the whole store. While we do have our own designated space, we also have influences in every aisle. Fruits and veggies in the Produce Department are what we encourage customers to eat along with healthy meats, healthy seafood and healthy dairy.
When I first started at Heinen’s, I thought it was going to be about selling vitamins and supplements, but it’s so much more than that. It’s teaching people how to grocery shop with their wellbeing in mind.
Above all, Heinen’s wellness philosophy is about mindset and lifestyle. Every store has a Wellness Consultant who is familiar with our products and where they’re located throughout the store, so we can offer a personalized nutrition experience.
Tell us about the range of products customers will find in the Wellness Department.
The last I heard, we had about 3,000 items in our department. Everything from better-for-you soaps and lotions to higher end vitamins and supplements to healthy snacks and drinks along with natural beauty care.
Although 3,000 items may seem like a lot, you can trust that each product is the best of the best because it is vetted by a team of experts before it ever reaches our shelves!
What kinds of questions do customers ask most frequently?
Every location is different, but at the Bannockburn Heinen’s it’s usually, “My doctor told me to do this. What do you have for that?” Or maybe it’s, “My doctor wants me to eat less sugar,” so we talk about low sugar options and healthier foods that happen to be low sugar. Sometimes it’s about solutions for preventing aches and pains.
In Glenview, I get a lot of questions like, “What kind of healthy foods and solutions can I provide for my whole family?” Or, “What kind of healthy snacks do you recommend for my kids’ lunchbox?”
We’re here to provide a service for customers to talk through their questions and find solutions that meet their needs.
Do you have any memorable success stories that will stick with you in terms of how you made an impact in the Wellness Department?
There are definitely customers that I will remember forever. The first customer I really got to know had a variety of health issues. Nothing severe, but she just wanted help making some things better. We worked through it together. She tried different products and still, to this day, visits me regularly just to say “hi.” I love keeping up with those customers who have had a good experience with my recommendations.
Another customer, the sweetest, nicest, elderly lady was diagnosed with cancer about 15 years ago. Doctors told her she could do a chemo treatment or choose a more natural approach involving a diet change. Along with measures recommended by her care team, she cut out all sugars, all processed foods and a lot of grains for a total 180-degree diet change. She wound up living 10 more years. She’d come in every day and, when she passed, it was like we lost a family member.
I am humbled and honored that our customers trust me and keep coming back.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
I have two cats, two dogs, my husband and my son who recently turned one. On an ideal day off, the weather would be warm and we’d plan a family walk with our dogs, Whiskey and Bailey. We’ve always enjoyed being outside and now we can bring the little guy on our family walks, too.
How would you describe the experience of working at Heinen’s?
I think, as an associate, we’re like one big happy family. We get to really know and care about each other. That goes for your everyday associate all the way to Tom and Jeff Heinen. They don’t come in here and ask about business. They come in and ask, “How’s your family? How’s your son? How are your dogs?” That alone makes you want to come to work and, in a way, makes you want to work hard for them because we’re working together as a family. That’s what I love about working at Heinen’s.
What does that mean to you?
It tells me that, at Heinen’s, we really care about our people. If your associates are happy and they like where they work and they feel valued, you’re going to have a good team. You’re going to have success. You’re going to want to come to work. Shoppers definitely sense that because I think we’re happier and more friendly as a result.