By Hannah Reimann
Lifethyme Health Market
410 Sixth Ave between 8th and 9th Streets
Deepak Chopra says, “the highest expression of the law of Dharma is expressing your gifts and service to others.” When I asked Jason Bander, who opened Lifethyme Health Market with his dad, Stuart Bander, to describe his long-time workers and what he’d like to see in newly hired workers, he told me, ”People who want to serve. Engaging, friendly, knowledgeable people who are passionate about the business, adept, savvy people capable of great human interaction. We’re all servants. To be a servant is not a bad thing, it’s a wonderful thing. We can all be fantastic servants. Whether I’m bagging groceries, checking out purchasing, cleaning out the grease traps, fixing things on levels that no one else in the store is, I’m a servant, I’m serving myself, the store, my staff, customers and I take pride in that.”
As a longtime customer at Lifethyme who always loves shopping there, I notice that workers are conscientious and customer-service oriented. I realize that they are a reflection of Bander and he, of them.
“Lifethyme was like a rocket,” when it opened in 1995, Bander said. “It launched at that time the Village was rich with artists and that utopian, bohemian, tight community. Everyone knew each other then.” Stuart and Jason Bander wanted to bring the farmers’ market to the people. Jason also worked for seven years on Wall Street as a research publisher while living in the Village. He would come home every weekday, drop his suit off at his apartment, put his construction clothes on and work on the store every day and every weekend, until it was ready for opening. He would work five days a week at night, twelve hours Saturday and Sunday while working his other job. He came to a point in his finance career that he could bow out eight years after Lifethyme opened. He was given the opportunity to take control of the store as its General Manager and Director of Purchasing.
“We take every opportunity to embrace and support the community any way we can without bias. It’s not a store of opinion or that will take a position. We want to serve, provide, protect the integrity of our food choices and the food choices in the neighborhood and maintain a community-minded vision. We want to know folks’ names.”
Bander was first influenced by this kind of community spirit when he lived in Vermont as a child. His mother was a professor at Goddard College and they frequented farmers’ markets, farm to table dinners and other community gatherings.
As Lifethyme enters it’s 25th year of business, Bander plans to expand the business by creating a blueprint for more stores, social media presence and Pop Up shops in establishments like Saks Fifth Avenue. He intends to improve window and store design while maintaining the stores’ integrity with the community, quality and value.
Compared to 1995 when there was an abundance of community health food stores, the larger market is diluted now, much more expensive. How important is Lifethyme to people in the Village who want to build health-conscious products today? Bander explained to me, “In this market, we’re a critical player.”