Two decades ago I had a brand new journalism degree and a passion for health. I’d been living in the Southwest, but moved back East after college to kick off my journalism career in the NYC area. When I saw the ad posting for an assistant editor at WholeFoods Magazine, it seemed like a perfect fit. I was all about wellness—I shopped at a little natural products store (shout out to New Fountain of Vitality in Warren, NJ—in business for over 35 years!) and focused on a healthy diet and exercising. I wanted the job before I even set foot in the office, and once I met the staff— Howard Wainer, Sandy Wainer, Alan Richman—I had a real sense that I belonged. I had scored my first job in publishing, and I was jazzed.
It was a small staff, so I was able to learn a lot about publishing and the industry from day one. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned, though, was that to really succeed—not just in business but in life—you need hustle and heart. I was a hard worker, and wanted to do well. But sitting in my office at Wainer Finest Communications, I witnessed the difference between doing your job well and truly making a difference.
Full disclosure here: No one “told” me these things…I actually learned this by eavesdropping. My office was next to Heather Wainer’s, and as is the case in most office buildings, the walls were thin, so I could hear her side of phone conversations. Sometimes, I’d pause what I was doing and just listen for a few moments. I’d be struck by just how invested Heather was in every single conversation…how much she genuinely cared about the people she was talking to, about their success, about how their success could benefit natural products retailers, who could then benefit consumers. I was so impressed at how she would strive to form meaningful partnerships to help achieve positive goals for all. I had a few internships under my belt and had worked at two major corporations through college, and I hadn’t witnessed anyone quite like this. Heather was never crossing another “to-do” off her list. She was never just putting in her time to earn a paycheck. Her drive made me want to do whatever necessary to help her deliver a better product. She has that effect on people. And because of that, even back then, when we were celebrating our 15th Anniversary in 1999, I knew this company was in good hands.
Of course, Heather got that love for the industry and that drive to want to thrive—and help everyone around her do the same—from somewhere. Her father, Howard, and mother, Sandy, inspired her. Her relationships with friends and coworkers in the industry fuel her, and her dreams for doing her part to make the world a healthier place keep her always future-focused on doing an ever better job at helping the industry grow in a positive way. On page 22, we celebrate the history of WholeFoods, from Howard Wainer’s vision in 1984 to Heather’s plans for the future. It’s hard to say what the next five, 10 and even 20 years will hold, but I’m happy to be along for the ride!