In 1961, wife and husband duo Lill and Herman Chapman opened Sunrise Health Foods in Lansing, a southern Chicago suburb. Today, Sunrise celebrates 60 years with five stores in the Chicago region.
The inception of Sunrise can be traced back to Lill’s health awakening in the 1950s. She was tired and experiencing severe anxiety and depression. During a visit with her dentist, Lill was advised to eliminate white flour, white sugar, and foods grown with chemicals from her diet. Thanks to that advice, her health transformed and her passion for wellness was born. Today, Lill and Herman’s son Dan Chapman manages the five locations, and just like his mother, Dan is constantly inspired by the transformative abilities of natural products.
“My mother spent years trying to find out the answer of how to live better, to live differently,” Dan tells WholeFoods. “Changing her diet was the answer. Part of that DNA is still within our company as a mission.”
Healthy foods and supplements were a major part of Dan’s upbringing. “As a little kid, I would go to health food stores with my mom. Whether it was working or making a mess as a kid, I don’t know,” he shares with a chuckle.
Dan learned a lot from his mother. A certified clinical nutritionist, her favorite part of the business was customer relations, and Dan shares that passion. It’s this drive to help customers feel their best that inspired him to take the reins of Sunrise.
“As a junior in high school, I realized I wanted to run the business,” says Dan, who also launched the supplement brand Redd Remedies in 2005. “I did a lot of management functions at the store and my dad gave me a fair amount of free reign.”
The focus on customer health is what makes Sunrise successful, says Dan. “Our focus has been the same since day one: We are a source in our community for healthy food and honest answers. Today, people don’t know what to trust or believe. They aren’t sure what they can trust online, so they come to us as a source for honest answers.”
New decades bring new challenges. Throughout 2020, the Sunrise team stepped up to help its consumers. In the midst of COVID-19 and the extended period of isolation for many, connecting with customers has become even more important. Dan’s philosophy: “When times are tough, you have to have the ability to show your customer that you care about them.”
Perhaps that’s another reason for the retailer’s success. “Our stores had the best year in our history,” says Dan. Refraining from online services and e-commerce, Sunrise stuck to its tradition and kept stores open with new cleaning procedures. “For customers that couldn’t come in, we shopped and accommodated for them. But we didn’t automate systems. Sunrise is a place where you come in to focus on customers as individuals. Our goal is to make you feel like you’re the only one.”
This approach won’t be changing anytime soon. “Our goal is to serve each customer one at a time as they walk in the door. That’s who we’ve been for 60 years, and we have no intention of changing that in the future.”
Hear more from Dan in Insights & Inspiration, where industry leaders took a time out from the daily to-dos to answer 5 Qs, reflecting on their careers and dishing out some wisdom for COVID-times and beyond..