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Health Food & Vitamin City

Roy Badal’s small shop in the heart of Chelsea is everything one could hope for in a wellness store. The shelves are chock-full of healthy products, and customers are expertly advised by Roy and his business partner, Mariana. They have dedicated themselves to gently encouraging others towards a better lifestyle. Roy came to the United States from India in the early 1980s. Having been raised on a nutrition-focused diet, he wanted to share his approach to eating with people in New York and opened three health stores over the years. Health Food & Vitamin City, which came to West 23rd Street in 1986, is the last remaining location. Roy was eventually joined by Mariana Niculescu, who emigrated from Romania in 1990 and met him while shopping at his original store on Broadway. Through the years, a warm relationship developed. “Today, we are like family, ” Mariana said. Roy and Mariana stock an abundance of products in their modest space. As Mariana pointed out, “everything is on top of each other, ” but that’s okay, because she is always there to advise and direct people. The key word at the shop is “natural, ” with plenty of recognizable items as well as a plethora of new ones. There are natural cosmetic and body products, herbs, grains, nut butters, an assortment of honey, teas from A to Z, protein shakes and powders, extracts, vitamins, cleanses, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and wheat-free products, and, of course, vegan options. Mariana described her devoted clientele, who have been visiting for decades, as “lovely people. ” “We are survivors, thanks to our customers. They love us and we love them. ”Roy has gained a reputation for being quite knowledgeable about the items that he sells in his store. According to Mariana, “He knows everything about herbs. He is like our doctor in the neighborhood. I have followed him for many years — I have listened and learned from him. He is my guru. ”