Raisin Rack has been offering natural food choices to Canton residents since 1978.

PLAIN TWP.  Stark County's original health food store celebrated turning 40 during March.

Don and Paulette Caster, local school teachers, opened Raisin Rack Natural Food Market in the 3900 block of Cleveland Avenue NW in March 1978. The couple had started eating, baking and cooking with natural foods but ran into problems buying ingredients. They solved the problem by opening the store to sell bulk grains, beans, dried fruits, vitamins and other health foods.

In a December 1978 story in The Canton Repository, the Casters described the new shop as "an emporium of health food and things."

John Marulli, a cousin to Paulette, was in high school when the shop opened and one of several family members who helped at the store. Today he's business development manager for the company, which has a second store in Westerville, outside Columbus.

"Back then there wasn't this much product available," Marulli said, standing in the store at 4629 Cleveland Ave. NW. Although it's only a few blocks north of the original location, the store is a far cry from the converted house where it started.

Raisin Rack moved to the new location, a former McDonald's restaurant, in 1994 after the restaurant chain opened a new location farther south on Cleveland Avenue NW. The store has expanded twice, with an addition in 2006 opening space for organic produce.

The store carries a wide variety of organic and natural, nutritional supplements and other products. Gluten-free products are set aside in one isle and adjacent freezer cases, and the store has a separate area and freezer section for vegan products.

Through the years the Raisin Rack has filled a niche by providing specialty food products. "We try to stay ahead, bring in new things," Marulli said.

Customers would ask for products and Raisin Rack would track down the item.

"It really was the community's input that dictated the direction we grew," he said.

Bill Kerekes was one of the store's early customers, regularly shopping for supplements and making suggestions. Marulli, by then an Ohio State University graduate, realized how much Kerekes knew about different products and hired him. He's been with the company more than 30 years.

"We're helping people in the community reach optimal health," said Kerekes, the Canton store's manager.

The Casters manage Raisin Rack operations in Columbus. The couple opened there in the early 1980s, and Marulli — still in college — was there to help them. Last year, the Casters were honored with the Pinnacle Award from the Ohio Grocers Association.

The business of providing organic foods and supplements has changed, with product lines expanding. Marulli noted that most large groceries offer an organic produce section and other organic products, while a few chains now focus on organic foods. Some products that once were found only in specialty stores similar to Raisin Rack now are found in larger chains.

Raisin Rack stays focused on customer needs. The majority of the store's products are organic, with a scant few exceptions for some that are produced locally. Listening to customers remains the big key, Marulli said.

Service recognized by North Canton

Sanctuary Grande Danbury Senior Living received Business of the Year recognition from the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce during its annual luncheon last week.

During 2017, Sanctuary Grande, which is affiliated with Danbury, opened a 137-unit facility in North Canton, making a multi-million dollar investment in the local community. Additionally, the original Danbury recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. All of the 15 Danbury locations are operated by Brookwood Management, which is based in North Canton.

The chamber also recognized other businesses, individuals and organizations during the luncheon. Awards went to:

• St. Paul Catholic Church and Walther's Twin Tavern restaurant for community investment.

• Rick McQueen, chief executive officer at Akron-Canton Airport, as community leader of the year.

• North Canton Public Library for community service award.

• Crowl Marketing Creative received the Pillar award.

• Starbucks Washington Square and Westfield Bank received chamber appreciation awards.

The Chamber's annual Character Counts! Business of Character award was presented to the North Canton YMCA.

'Fix-It Friday'

Local business SprayWorks Equipment Group has turned to YouTube to help contractors understand how they can use the company's spray foam and coatings equipment.

A series of short videos called "Fix-It Friday" feature John Davidson, vice president of operations at SprayWorks, and Dave Penta, a polyurethane equipment expert, showing common repairs and maintenance steps that should be made routinely. The videos also break down the anatomy of the spray foam equipment.

Each video will include common part repairs that needed regularly. "We break it down to make repairs quick, which leaves the spray foam contractors feeling confident," Davidson said in a news release.

Hammontree work nets award

Ohio's chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies recognized Hammontree & Associates Ltd. for its work to replace the Nimisila spillway at Camp Y-Noah in Green.

The company received an honor award of excellence for redesigning the failing spillway at the camp, which is owned by the Akron Area YMCA. The spillway, which protects and helps preserve Lake Y-Noah, had to be replaced and a new pedestrian bridge was constructed. Hammontree worked with YMCA officials and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to redevelop the spillway.

OOGEEP honor

An executive with Alliance Petroleum Corp., based in Jackson Township, received the 2018 Pipeline Award presented by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy and Education Program.

Martin L. Miller, vice president of operations and Marietta District supervisor, was recognized for his work helping to develop OOGEEP's safety training programs.

Ron Whitmire, senior vice president and chief administrative officer for EnerVest and OOGEEP board chairman, said in a press release that Miller made distinguished contributions to oilfield safety. "As a result of his efforts, oilfield workers in Ohio are safer and better trained than ever before." Whitmire said.

Miller serves as chairman of OOGEEP's safety and workforce committee and worked on several oil and gas industry safety programs, including the International Association of Drilling Contractors accredited program. Miller has worked 42 years in the oil and gas industry.

Alliance Petroleum has been developing, operating and producing oil and natural gas wells since 1985. The company operates 13,000 wells in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @epritchardREP