Eddie's Health Shoppe Downtown, 455 Union Avenue, Knoxville, November 2023
Eddie’s Health Shoppe, originally opened in Halls in 1995, opened its second location in West Knoxville in 2004, began production of ZenEvo Chocolates in 2012, and followed with the downtown location in 2018. The location had about a year-and-a-half run before the pandemic upended the world. They adapted and continued to evolve and, after over five years at the downtown location, are doing very well.
I bumped into co-owner Bridget Reymond on a recent food tour, which regular stops at the shop for chocolate, and suggested we get together to discuss the evolution of the business. We were joined by her husband, Stephen Manners (who some of you may have met when he managed Tree and Vine — which is when he and Bridget met), with whom she has also started a virtual work-out and nutrition company.
She said while the pandemic presented a challenge, the PPE loans helped pull them through the worst of it. Bridget had also set up online sales for the company in the months before the pandemic, so that helped them through the earliest months when very few people were coming out. “There were some positives to it for us, like more people stocking up on immune support. Just before the shutdowns began in earnest, “when word started ramping up, we had a few days at both stores where people were emptying our shelves.”
She said what followed were lots of issues with supply chain, products out of stock, and demand outstripping production, as well as simply maintaining staffing at both locations. They had to look for new vendors for some products. Things began to even out in 2021, particularly in the second half of the year. “In early 2022 we started seeing more demographics, like more students started finding us, and staff that we had at the time (UT students) did a good job of talking to their friends and bringing them in.” She said that trend has continued, with college students a big part of the business.
She continued, “Another big chunk, of course, is all the businesspeople who work down here” including employees at banks, restaurants on Market Square, and others. “We get a lot of the workers coming in on a daily basis for the energy drinks, premade meals, and protein bars.” Stephen said it is a major part of their support, adding somewhat lightly, “The restaurants down here run off of Eddie’s Health Shoppe.”
He also pointed out that the store has been able to reach south and east Knoxville a bit better, as people from those areas might stop at Eddie’s if they are out west but wouldn’t like drive there just for that. With a location nearer to their homes, they drive in. It helps that their building includes a parking garage, though many park at the curb in front of the store for a quick transaction. They encourage out-of-town people to come during the weekend when parking is free and they can make a day of it, maybe visiting the Farmers’ Market while they are here.
The increased downtown housing has made an impact on business and Bridget said they get increasing numbers of people who have recently moved here from other states. They think downtown development, including the looming stadium, will only make things better for their store.
They also encounter tourists on a steady basis, particularly on weekends. Bridget said they have people who come in every day and many more who come in multiple times each week. They have instituted a loyalty program (5-star rewards) that has worked very well as repeat customers get discounts after making consistent purchases. Participants get text notifications of sales and that has been popular.
The ZenEvo chocolate line owned by the company has continued to be a great success and enjoys national availability. The protein peanut butter cups are very popular downtown, as are the energy squares (dark chocolate with a boost of energy ingredients). During the worst of COVID they introduced a chocolate that included vitamins C, D, and Zinc to boost your immune system. The company also has a joint deal with Pilot Oil in which they sell highly caffeinated chocolate at their Pilot/Flying J travel centers.
Eddie’s also purchased another business, Tennessee Pre, a locally founded company selling supplements, including two to be used pre-workout, to maximize the benefits from the workout. Eddies may use the company as a starting point for developing a more complete line of their own products, something they have not chosen to do up to this point. With distribution and manufacturing relationships already in place for the brand, it offers another wholesale and retail opportunity.
Additionally, Bridget and Stephen have started their personal training business, Forever Fit Coaching, in 2021. Steven had shifted from Tree and Vine to working in a gym and working as a personal trainer. With her background in nutrition and body building competition, the assets of the shop, and his current work as a personal trainer, it only made sense to form their own company and use their experience and resources for themselves.
The business is virtual and the two have an app that helps them stay in touch with participants. Online coaching boomed during the pandemic and has continued to be an effective way to deliver services because of the time flexibility it offers, as well as the cost-efficiency. Packages are offered for fitness training or nutrition or both. Most people take both, but some clients feel they have one or the other under control.
They use the “bod pod” for local clients to get a body composition assessment as well as a nutrition assessment to get started. The goal is to shift long-term health practices for long-range benefits. Bridget said, “We really want to transform the way that people live their life and the way they eat and train.”
If you haven’t visited Eddie’s downtown location, be sure to drop in. You’ll find a very wide range of products for health devotees and those who simply want to be a bit healthier. They also have beauty and self-care products, including essential oils and diffusers. From CBD and hemp products to natural soaps and shampoos, to herbs and nutritional supplements, fitness products, backpacks, and water bottles to grab-and-go meals both frozen and refrigerated from brands like Clean Etz and Icon Meals. Or you can just come in and grab a health bar to go.
The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and from noon to 6:00 pm on Sunday.