It was October of 1979.
Inflation had reached a whopping 11.3 percent, headed for a gut-wrenching 13.5 percent in 1980. Oil prices had thrust the U.S. into a horrid recession.
Paul Bogosian had a wife — seven months pregnant at the time — two children and a wonderful job at the Rock Island Arsenal.
Perfect time to open Moline's Better Life Nutrition, right?
"It was seen as pretty risky in those days. I had a good job, two kids and a third on the way, but I had received some help and made changes heath-wise and I really felt we could make a difference,'' said Paul Bogosian, who today, after a successful, four-decade journey into bettering the lives of countless others, will begin liquidation of his Moline-based Better Life Nutrition's inventory. He will retire at the end of the month.
"I'm 75,'' added a fit, trim and razor-sharp Navy veteran, who for the past 25 years has shared store leadership duties with his daughter, Tami Bogosian, a ball of positive energy, who is a certified nutritionist, aromatherapist, health coach and personal trainer.
Tami also holds a degree in music education and has long taught piano to willing students about the two-state area. There are many post-Better Life Nutrition options she will explore when the lights go out at their 1715 15th Street Place location.
"We got it going,'' Paul said of the store's early days. "After almost of year of me getting off at 3:30 (p.m.) at the Arsenal and then coming here, we decided it wasn't working and we (as a family) were not seeing each other. So I jumped over here full-time.''
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, people were unaware and unsure of the benefits of different wellness options and lacked guidance when it came to proper nutrition and diet.
"We got some flak from some medical people,'' Paul said. "Not directly, but telling people that stuff doesn't work. But Tami's mom was a certified nutritionist and Tami is a certified nutritionist. Customers with high blood pressure or high cholesterol would come in with questions and we had answers. That was the basis for building the business.''
A business that catered to, and assisted in, the health and nutritional needs of Quad-Citians and others around the Midwest. Paul was far ahead of his time in offering potential customers a club membership good for a variety of discounts and first-serve options on products for a one-time fee.
The membership, at one point, was at 1,000 across the Midwest. Paul and Tammy will continue to fill orders for club members until the doors are closed for good.
"Employees have been part of the family and customers have become friends,'' Paul said. "It's always been about relationships and helping others meet their needs for a healthier life. That (membership) helped us build a solid base of customers. Many have become friends.''
For some, change is a smooth transition. Paul, one of life's good guys, still relies on a flip phone and does not have a home computer, yet is top-notch in the face-to-face world of sales and customer service. Tami is a whiz with customers as well, but is also a one-person IT, accounts payable and receivable department.
"She's been amazing,'' Paul said of Tami. "Now, though, she deserves the chance — and is ready — to pursue other opportunities. I'm still a face-to-face guy. I bought bikes from my friend Steve (DePron) when he owned Bike 'N Hike in Rock Island. I go to K&K Hardware (Bettendorf) and get my questions answered from someone I know. I go to Trevor True Value Hardware in Moline, because I know Butch Trevor and he will tell me exactly what I need.''
Though challenged by grocery entities jumping into the supplement and nutritional side of the game and some big box entities, Paul says he's OK with competition. What he and Tami could not defeat is the coronavirus.
"It's the inability to get product in a timely manner and sometimes only getting 50 percent of what we need,'' Paul said. "We've been thinking about stepping aside for a couple years, but the virus has made it hard to help our customers and pushed us to do it now.''
Despite the trials and tribulations of all that comes with being a small business, Better Life Nutrition has provided for Paul and his family through the years. It allowed him to share its progress with his three children and create relationships that will last a lifetime.
"We broke every child labor law under the sun,'' Tami said of sharing store duties growing up with her brothers, Chad and Peter. "My two boys have worked here as well. It's been wonderful, but it's time.''
And when that door finally closes?
"I'll miss it,'' Paul said. "People put their trust and confidence in us for years. I'll see my grandkids in California and take a break. It's the right time.''
After 40 successful years in business, Paul Bogosian has proven he knows a little something about timing.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757 8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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