Mom & Pop Business Survives And Thrives

Back to Basics manager Steven Cole attributes the success of the store to the customers.

Photo by Michele Nelson. |

Back to Basics manager Steven Cole attributes the success of the store to the customers.


The lunch rush ends with a mom and her two little children hopping into their mini van, hands full of vibrantly colored fruit smoothies in clear plastic cups, straws sticking up in the air.

Inside, Karen Ogulewicz, Tara Sall, Lorien Partridge and Steven Cole quickly stock shelves and prepare for the next wave of customers.

Just a typical day for Back to Basics, the little red store behind the tractor on North Highway 87.

This month marks the 20-year anniversary for the specialty foods shop and the staff is celebrating.


“We’re having a drawing for a $200 value basket every week, every 25th customer wins a special gift, and anyone purchasing (products totaling) more than $50 takes home a tote bag,” said Steven Cole, store manager and son of the founders.

Twenty years ago, Cole’s parents started the store as a shop for bakers next to Charlie’s Meats.

“My mom was teaching baking classes and started the store with lots of different flours and grains, nuts and seeds,” said Cole.

From those humble beginnings, the store has grown to serve its customers with whatever they need from bulk herbs and teas to vitamins and smoothies, including 20 different varieties of flours.

“We’re a customer-driven store,” said Cole. “Many of the products on the shelves are there because customers asked for them. A lot of regulars just stop by to hang out,” he said.

The store has a table with chairs; a sofa and easy chair in case customers care to take a break, read the labels on products, chat with staff or sip a smoothie.

The store even ships orders to customers who have moved away. “We ship all over the U.S.”

The shop’s bright red color, rooftop clock tower and iconic tractor out front also draws customers off the highway. “I just had a new customer stop by today to check out what we had just because of the way the store looks,” said Cole.

The family attributes its success to its customers. “God has kept the store going and helped a lot of people,” said Cole.

Cole’s father, Gary, wrote in a statement that after a short year of owning the business, the opportunity to buy the current location came up and customers came from all over to help.

“Some people gave a lot to help us open — Lou LaBonte spent days on his hands and knees laying the floor, at no charge. Another friend loaned us money several times to help us through our growth periods.

“I remember our move to our present location very well. Customers showed up Friday night with pickups and cars to help us move. We were so surprised and emotional because we did not expect this gesture.”

Despite the economic downturn in Payson, Back to Basics has continued to run successfully.

Ironically, the health food and vegetarian Mecca occupies a former meat processing plant. “We can still see where they hung the meat in the back,” said Cole with a smile and a shrug.

Since taking over as manager, Cole has opened up the store by removing a wall, realigning shelves and redoing the floor.

It’s all about the customers say Ogulewicz and Sall. They enjoy showing customers all over the store. Staff is always happy to order anything customers need. Sometimes those requests turn into items permanently offered.

Back to Basics also has space available for services such as digital infrared thermal imaging and myofascial release massage.

“We have room in the back,” said Cole.

For more information, check out the Back to Basics Web site at

“I could go on and on naming people that have been a part of Back to Basics over the past 20 years,” wrote Cole. “Back to Basics is committed to not sacrificing quality for price. Your health is very important to us.”


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