By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
In 1993, in a tiny little shop in Athens’ Hobbs Plaza on Hwy 72, a woman by the name of Flo Ellis opened a 300-square foot health-building business by the name of Herbs & More. Flo and her daughters had a deep desire to meet the nutritional and health needs of the people of the Tennessee Valley, and one of their customers who would go on to be a part of the Herbs & More legacy was Mary Sulcer.
In 1999, Mary was struggling with a debilitating and mysterious syndrome known as fibromyalgia, a little understood and horribly painful set of symptoms that present themselves in one’s muscles, as well as bones, and are often accompanied by fatigue and issues with sleep, memory, and mood. Mary had been a widow after many years of marriage and ministry, and was now happily remarried to Bud Sulcer. Feeling she had been blessed by God with a new lease on life and love, the overwhelming urge to not get out of bed in the morning just didn’t make sense, and standard medications were not bringing any relief. Mary ventured into Herbs & More out of desperation and not much else, and she told me her attitude was, “Well, I told Flo I’d give it a try. I really wasn’t convinced that it would help.” Mary tried MSM+C and, in fact, it ended up helping greatly. It was right around that time that through Flo, Mary and Bud met Roy and Gwen Williams. These were the early days of Roy’s patented line of NEWtritional Health Care supplements, and Mary added their HGH and CoQ10 to her recovery regimen; now she was feeling even better. For the next year, Bud and Mary began to devour everything they could on nutrition, holistic health, and the mind-body piece to the wellness puzzle. They were in the store often, and were eager learners.
One day in 2000, Bud was in Herbs & More picking up some items, and out of the blue Flo asked him if he wanted to buy the store. It was most definitely a “deer-in-the-headlights” moment, and he told Flo he’d get back to her. He went home, told Mary what Flo had proposed, and in about 15 minutes they decided to go for it together. Mary had years of administrative and ministerial experience, both of which came in handy, and they started a second career that neither of them had ever planned to pursue. They moved into a larger location right next to the Riviera Fitness Center on the south side of the Athens Town Center shopping complex, and were there for the next several years. I met them for the first time at that location, having returned from Iraq in the spring of 2007, and knowing that I was in need of some deep and protracted detox. I had lived for three years in the country where Saddam Hussein had literally poisoned his own people, and truly God only knows what I had been exposed to. Bud and Mary were so helpful, and cheered me on in my quest to secure the future of my health and begin the next phase of my life.
Herbs & More then moved to a new location on Clinton Street, right next to Champion Jeep, and it did well. Bud and Mary loved what they were doing, but they began to feel the “retirement itch.” They approached Roy and Gwen about buying the Clinton location, and the Williamses took over in 2011. In August of 2013, Herbs & More moved into their present location at 935 US Hwy 72 in Athens, and again, the store has done well. However, as is the case with most entrepreneurs, Roy and Gwen had the desire to own rather than lease the land and the building that is the home of their business, and have exciting news: Herbs & More is pleased to announce that they have purchased the old Osborne’s Jewelers building on Jefferson Street across from the Limestone Public Library! If all goes according to plan, they will be moving into the new facility in the next few weeks, and the excitement is building! As was reported in the April 20th edition of Athens Now, Mary Sulcer decided she had had enough of “retirement” and came back to work three days a week. A few days ago she told me “the rest of the story.” “I tried to do other things: I refinished furniture, I had a booth in the flea market, and while there was nothing wrong with any of it, I knew I was not walking in my calling. I missed working at Herbs & More so bad, and when I came back, I felt like I was home.” All was well until last week when Mary had her own “wake-up call.”
She was at the Herbs & More store and had what is known as a TIA, which stands for Transient Ischemic Attack, or a mini-stroke. They speedily got Mary to the ER and discovered that she had a blockage in her neck; thankfully she experienced no long-term effects. I asked her, “What happened, do you think?” Her answer was quick: “Over time I got away from eating a healthy diet, and ‘walking the walk.’ I subtly believed that I would be ok because of the supplements I was taking. You can’t do that; you can’t treat your body that way and just expect some pill to fix it, even if you are taking healthy supplements,” she said firmly. “I have been given another chance, and this time I am going to walk in my calling, which is to help people build their health so they can do what they have been called to do,” she said. Mary finished our time by saying, “I am so excited for Roy and Gwen. It is a dream to see Herbs & More in its own place. I feel like there is a legacy; I want to be a part of it and help them help others.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner