A natural journey

Some stores are destinations: Customers visit to buy something specific like bananas or milk. But others are treasure hunts: Customers visit for the pleasure of finding something new, different or exciting.

The latter describes Natural Life, an 1,800-square-foot store in Jacksonville, Fla., that sells everything from clothes and accessories to home décor and unique gifts. Prices range from $5 to $50; an average sale is around $40.

Merchandising includes old rustic tables, shelves, crates and primitive props that “allow our treasures to shine,” says Patti Hughes, founder, chief executive and chief operating officer of the company. The “positive vibe” of the store, its product mix and its merchandising attract customers who become emotionally connected to the brand, Hughes says, calling the store and its products the result of “an organic journey that evolved over time and reflects what I treasure, and what I’ve learned other people treasure as well.”

Hughes, who has childhood memories of her mother “constantly creating,” found that she had the creativity gene when people started buying photographs she had taken. From photographs, Hughes began creating a wide variety of other things that people wanted to buy. A friend helped her find manufacturers for her creations; soon, retailers in her neighborhood and surrounding states started selling them.

The wholesale brand evolved from there, and in 2013, Hughes opened the Natural Life flagship store. In addition, more than 5,000 independent and chain stores, including Francesca’s Collections, carry Natural Life products, and 10 partner stores almost exclusively sell Natural Life products.

“We love that the Natural Life brand inspires people to give … and live happy,” Hughes says.

Natural Life
Jacksonville, Fla.
Founder, CEO & COO: Patti Hughes
Locations: 1

Liz Parks is a Union City, N.J.-based writer with extensive experience reporting on retail, pharmacy and technology issues.