FLINT TWP. — You might call them the wizards of Oz.
Don Wolfe and his son Drew are second and third generation merchants of natural and health food products whose expertise well serves the familyowned Dale’s Natural Foods, started in 1947 by Dale Wolfe, Don’s dad.
Nowadays one of their biggest trends is fueled by advice from Mehmet Oz, M.D., an Oprah discovery and TV talk show host.
“A product that had a very low level of interest, when he talks about it, interest just skyrockets,’’ said Don Wolfe, who admits it takes some wizardry to keep up with Dr. Oz’s recommendations.
“Our job is to respond to our customers, so we scramble as fast as we can to get that new thing,’’ Wolfe said. “It’s a little frustrating but it also is kind of exciting because usually I feel his information is good information.”
Great customer service is the backbone of Dale’s 65 years in business.
“We’re information fanatics,’’ Don Wolfe said. “People come here because we try really hard to give them the information about our products and what they are.”
Drew Wolfe, 32, who manages the store, has become the undisputed expert on supplements, his father said.
“People want to talk to me because I am the boss but after Drew waits on you a couple of times, you just walk right past me and go to Drew,’’ he said with a laugh.
Therefore Wolfe expects Dale’s to be around for generations to come.
Don Wolfe grew up in his dad’s business, recalling standing on a chair to scrub carrots because he was not tall enough to reach the counter. One of his first jobs was selling popcorn to people who came downtown to go to the movie theaters.
Dale’s operated at three downtown Flint locations — on Harrison, First and Saginaw streets — before moving to 4290 Miller Rd. in the Somerset Town Centre about 25 years ago. At one time, Wolfe was partners with his brother, Doug.
Now operating in about 6,000 square feet, Dale’s product lines have increased tenfold since their dad’s day, Wolfe said.
One dramatic change is flavor. Fifty years ago, manufacturers were not con- cerned with how products tasted.
“Now we can have healthy and wonderful taste together,” Wolfe said.
Often trends start in health food stores before going mainstream, yogurt being one example.
“My dad brought yogurt to town,’’ Wolfe said, though he doesn’t recall the time frame. “(Back) then you didn’t get yogurt at the grocery store.”
Supplements are Dale’s top volume sellers, but gluten-free products and organic produce are other big sellers.
Fifty years ago people allergic to gluten were sick and didn’t know why, Wolfe said.
“Even 20 years ago, if you had come in here and said you had to have gluten-free, I had so few things to show you. Now I have extra coolers for that.”
Wolfe also is very proud of his Deli section which offers a selection of freshly-prepared soups, salads, sandwiches “just like you would make in your own kitchen.”
Dale’s is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.