The Opera House has welcomed a new tenant in their street side business space. Healthies of Mid Mitten is a health shake bar.
The husband and wife duo of Michele and Ron Welch own Healthies. As friends of owners of a similar shake bar in Mt. Pleasant, they were encouraged to pursue their goal of opening one of their own.
Healthies, like the Mt. Pleasant location, is a Herbalife Nutrition Club, which means it is affiliated with the multi-level marketing organization, Herbalife Nutrition.
“A Herbalife Nutrition Club is a healthy place for people to stop in and grab breakfast, lunch, a snack and get energized with our teas or energy bombs,” said Michele Welch.
“Something healthy as opposed to driving through a fast food place and eating crude. It is also meant to be a positive place for people to come in to gather, make friendships, feel good about themselves or bless them with some positive energy on their way to work,” said Welch.
Welch has been doing weight loss challenges through Herbalife since 2009. She evolved this into community workouts in roughly 2012 to 2013. She also does a weekly friendship walk in the summer with an option of a 1.5 or 4.2-mile course to get people to be active and develop friendships at the same time.
“This is all stuff we want to incorporate in Alma just to get people feeling better,” said Michele Welch, speaking on incorporating her past fitness programs in with her new business.
Healthies is also looking to hire coaches to work independently through Herbalife to help clients who seek assistance in reaching their fitness goals.
“We train them [health coaches] on helping people to make healthy choices… they’ll coach clients through weight loss challenges or to gain weight… and coach people on what to eat and that will set them on Herbalife plans of Herbalife nutrition and tell them what to consume to help get those results,” said Michele Welch.
Healthies has also been working close with Alma College students, particularly athletes. For example, they did a fundraiser on Saturday, January 11 where for every combo purchased that day, one dollar was donated to the dance team.
“Overall it turned out pretty well, I went in there myself and there was a lot of people in there. And for my overall opinion of Healthies, I think it is pretty good and it is convenient having one here [in Alma] because I have been to the one in Mt. Pleasant and obviously that is a farther drive. I think it is a new cute little thing to add to downtown,” said Dance Team Member, Sara Scott (‘21).
Though Michele and her husband have good intentions of improving the health of the community, the Herbalife Nutrition company has faced continuous scrutiny from the legal and medical nutrition communities.
According to NPR, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Herbalife for deceiving consumers regarding the amount of profits that selling their products could earn. The FTC added that Herbalife distributors were making almost no money at all.
Even though the FTC did see this practice as deceptive, they did not go as far in there ruling as to label Herbalife Nutrition a pyramid scheme and, ultimately, allowed them to keep operating. This case was settled by Herbalife paying 200 million dollars in 2016 to reimburse consumers who lost money as distributors and agreeing to make changes in the way they do business.
“Our [Alma College’s] agreement is with a specific business not with Herbalife. I do not think it is really our place to tell them what products [to sell] as long as they are selling products that are legal,” said Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Alan Gatlin, who leased the business space to the Healthies owners.
“They’ve [multilevel marketing companies] been around for decades and they are completely legal and a lot of people do well in those and some people don’t. They [Healthies] are not trying to get college students to become franchisees or to become marketers. I am dealing with a husband and wife team from St. Johns that seem like really nice people… it seems like a very legitimate business and so I don’t see any down side for our students from that,” said Gatlin.
The nutritional value of Herbalife products has also been questioned in the past. Meal replacement options tend to contain far less calories than the recommended intake. Various studies, cases, and news reports over the past few years have linked heavy usage of Herbalife products to potential liver failure although it is important to note no sustained causality has been found between the products and these health issues.
“As far as the meal replacement shakes, if you look on the internet at our respective website (WebMD), they will say the best way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables but if you can’t do that because of your lifestyle, it will say having a shake or two a week is not a bad alternative,” said Gatlin.
Though Herbalife Nutrition as large organization brings with it a host of concerning questions, the intentions of Michele Welch and her husband, who did not return comment regarding Herbalife Nutrition’s past issues, seem focused on offering healthy options to Alma area residents.
The store is currently offering many promotions such as having customers pass out half-off coupons. Referring three customers through the coupon cards to make a purchase at the store will result in that person’s name being recognized on a board inside the store.
Healthies is also pushing word of mouth marketing and social media publicity by customers and of their own as a focus instead of paid advertising.
Healthies is open weekdays from 6:30AM until 7:00PM and weekends from 8:00AM until 3:00PM.