Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Emily Vargo. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Emily, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Can you talk to us about a risk you’ve taken – walk us through the story?
The most recent, and largest, risk I’ve taken is opening the second location of Health in Hand and planning for future growth opportunities. When I opened Health in Hand Downtown Spartanburg, I was very young and it was a very small footprint (450sqft). I didn’t have much to lose. Seven years forward, I’ve expanded into a space that’s three times the size of our first location with a full production kitchen space and a much larger financial investment than anything I’ve ever done. This is my first journey outside of an urban area, Health in Hand Tyger River is located in the suburbs and is 15min from our downtown hub. There were a lot of unknowns, but a lot of certainties as well. Would we do well in this new location? Will our regulars continue to support both locations? Can two juice bars survive in Spartanburg, being so close but also so far away from each other? The answer so far has been an overwhelming YES! Health in Hand has become a household name in Spartanburg, I’ve created a strong brand and image and products that our community loves. We’ve been able to reach tons of new customers in the Tyger River market, and continue to have regulars from downtown come support when they’re on this side of town as well. The response has been fantastic and I am so excited to see what the years to come look like.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I’m Emily (Wood) Vargo, I was born & raised in Spartanburg County and have been in the area for over 30 years. My roots are here. After I graduated from Coastal Carolina University, I moved back home and found myself working the most mundane office job I could find in downtown. I had a 30 minute lunch break with no healthy options nearby. I would bring my blender to work and make my smoothies in the break room! I had an opportunity to explore the world of small business ownership, having no idea what I was getting myself into. I was 22 years old with a dream. I found the perfect commercial location, a new construction development in downtown on the brand new Wall Street. I opened Health in Hand on January 26, 2015 and haven’t looked back! I had no management, ownership, marketing, or any other experience besides working in restaurants through High School & College. I knew our downtown desperately needed a healthy, fast option and I figured it all out as I went day by day.
We started out with cold pressed juices, raw smoothies, and a handful of vegan food items. Our menu has expanded and matured over the years as I’ve had the opportunity to introduce our guests to new ingredients, cold pressed juicing, acai bowls, and healthy snack options. We’ve become really good at being efficient in our very small space of 450sqft. We can have almost any order out in less than ten minutes. We have an app that customers can order from, curbside pickup, delivery, and more. We are one of very few (if any) other places downtown where you can get something healthy, made to order, and be back to your day-to-day with time to spare. The world has evolved quickly over the last few years and we understand that convenience is more important than ever.
While diving deep into my business development & growth, I’ve also grown my family. I married my husband, who has been a major support system for me and my work, we moved to the country in 2018 and had our daughter right in the middle of the pandemic, some of the most difficult times for small business owners. I’ve continued to thrive, grow, and learn so much over the last few years. I’m so proud to have brought Health in Hand to Spartanburg and I’m so excited to see what opportunities lie ahead for this company.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
In January 2020 I found out I was expecting my first child. In March 2020 I found out we were entering a global pandemic that would have a massive effect on small businesses, especially in the food service industry. Places were closing left and right, and we were just trying to stay afloat. My husband was laid off from his job in March of 2020, which worked to my benefit because he was able to help me at Health in Hand. I would make the call-in orders, and he would run the deliveries. Our sales were more than cut in half during April & May of 2020. I had staff to pay, a growing belly, and so many “what-ifs?”. New regulation after new regulation on my small business was extremely stressful and the game changed every day. I implemented personal deliveries, juice sale packages, immune boosting smoothies, and more. My husband was offered a job that required him to travel almost up until my due date. I was exhausted, unbelievably stressed out, and still pregnant! Finding the perfect balance was incredibly difficult. My staff and I really came together and pushed through what were some of the most challenging months of my life. I birthed my daughter in October of 2020, and went right back to work. I think I took 5 days off before I was back in the store. Trying to keep myself and my daughter healthy was my first priority, but I also had a small business to keep healthy. We pulled out of 2020 with our sales higher than they were in 2019. That was a massive accomplishment for me, still seeing growth. It also really confirmed, in my mind, how much this County loves us. It was an amazing feeling. We came out of the pandemic stronger than ever and really had the momentum to push forward with complete renovations to our downtown location, the opening of our second location, and a perfectly healthy little girl!
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
High quality products, and even better customer service. We don’t always get it right, but we always try our best. Being honest and genuine with your guests and community will take you far. Providing consistent good quality products, friendly and meaningful customer relations, and a positive experience for those who walk through our doors has been key in retaining loyal customers who share their love for us with others. We engage with our guests on a personal level and get to know them and learn their likes and dislikes and tailor their experience at Health in Hand to suit their needs.
- Website: www.healthinhandsc.com
- Instagram: @healthinhandsc
- Facebook: www.healthinhandsc.com/healthinhandspartanburg
- Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/emivargo
Max DiNatale & Say Curgan