For 37 years, Fairbanksans have been able to find unique health goods, the largest selection of bulk herbs in the state and supplements galore at Sunshine Health Foods.
Mary Kopf and her then-husband Paul Kopf bought the store in 1984. They are the third owners of the business, which first opened on 12th Avenue and Noble Street.
Since then, Kopf’s son Brian Reagin has stepped up to helped run the stores as an adult.
But Mary remains the heart and soul of the business, Reagin says.
The only store location up until 2018 was off of Trainer Gate Road in East Fairbanks.
But after feedback from customers in West Fairbanks who loved the store but not the drive across town, two years ago the business expanded to open a second location on the west side of town.
Housed in the two-story store front previously occupied by Fairbanks’ legendary bookstore Gulliver’s Books — gone but not forgotten — Sunshine Health Foods West feeds the body as the former fed the mind.
The shelves once stocked with tales and narratives to sweep you away to distant lands now hold a different kind of comfort in the form of teas, supplements, herbs, soaps, candles, health food and more.
The central goal is local and community centered wellness, Reagin says.
“The number one variable that affects your body is what you’re putting in your mouth, what you’re eating and drinking,” Reagin said.
With that in mind, Sunshine Health Foods West also boasts a new development in the opening of the Sun Sprout Cafe upstairs.
“The whole goal of the Sun Sprout Cafe was a hope to a offer more natural food style; fresh squeezed juices, made to order smoothies, pre and post workout drinks, immune system boost drinks,” Reagin said.
Growing up, Reagin was regularly encouraged by his Irish grandmother to open a cafe. Now, one year after his beloved grandmother died at the age of 95, he said her dream has come alive.
“My grandmother is now living vicariously through the cafe upstairs,” he said. “It’s a labor of love. It’s a tricky industry offering non-GMO, organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free type foods. Also offering gluten free foods and hypoallergenic foods, is very trick.”
The cafe menu regularly changes based on what is available locally and in-season.
“We love local foods, we love local products, we love Fairbanks and our fellow Fairbanksans and when it comes to farmers markets, it’s fun going out and finding different foods and options,” Reagin said.
Other local products the store offers includes local jewelry, honey, eggs and Arctic chaga tea — the latter of which Reagin said is probably the best in the country.
The Eastside location still remains open and operates under the same store hours as its sibling store across town. Both have suffered marginally during the time of COVID-19, but honestly what better store to go to than a health foods store? Items like elderberry supplements, Zinc, Vitamin C and others were flying off the shelves for a while and Reagin said it was hard to keep some goods in stock.
The panic has somewhat dissipated he noted.
Moving forward, Reagin hopes to expand some of the appliances offered in the store to include small apothecary items such as home essential oil distillers.
The expansion of the store has been tough at times but the stores have always operated under the same goal regardless of hardships and that is to provide products and service unable to be found anywhere else in town.
“It’s been trying but it’s been exciting,” Reagin said.
The store employs 14 workers at both stores combined, a collection of locals with knowledge to help you find the right essential oils, organic grains, natural beauty products and health supplements.
Sunshine Health Foods West is located at 3525 College Rd. and can be reached at (907) 374-0990. Sunshine Health Foods East is located at 410 West Trainor Gate Rd. and can be reached at (907) 456-5433.
Both stores are open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Both stores are closed Saturdays.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.