By Traci Moyer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Dave Cravens has always been interested in health and wellness. He started bodybuilding at age 15.
In 1995, Cravens won the title Mr. Natural Indiana, and nine years later he was named Mr. Hoosier. He also competed in the World Fire and Police Olympic Games, traveling to Quebec and winning a bronze medal in 2005. Cravens won a silver medal at the British Columbia games in 2009.
"I'm going to win a gold medal in the 2015 games," he said with a laugh.
Cravens is not afraid to set high goals for himself, and then he makes sure to reach them. Consider his GNC store.
"When I started this franchise, I had nothing, and the bank gave me $10,000 and a credit card," Cravens said. "That was a lot of money back then."
His opened his first GNC store in Anderson and, 20 years later, he is still operating the business in his childhood hometown. GNC offers "vitamins, supplements, minerals, herbs, sports nutrition, diet and energy, and health and beauty products," according to the company's website.
"When we started we only had two employees," Cravens pointed out. "Today we have 16."
After opening the Anderson store in 1994, Cravens opened GNCs in Westfield, then Noblesville and Greenfield, and finally a store at Geist. He eventually sold all the franchise locations, with the exception of the Anderson and Geist locations.
Cravens said GNC products are scientifically researched and must pass stringent quality testing before they can be sold in the stores.
"No other company does that," he said.
Cravens pulls a worn thank-you note from a cork board in the back room, unfolds the letter with care and uses it to illustrate the quality of customer service offered at his business.
A winter storm had delayed a shipment and a customer, waiting for the product, had left his store unhappy. Cravens followed the man out to his car and told the customer he would personally take care of the problem.
The handwritten thank-you shows that Cravens delivered on his promise.
"We build relationships with our customers, and if something is not right we are going to try to make it right," he said. "We are in retail, so we might not make everyone happy, but we try."
Cravens says he has instilled that philosophy in his employees.
Mandy Vermillion, 32, is a store manager for the GNC in Anderson.
"I love being able to help people and being able to describe things to them," she said. "I have been told I am an encyclopedia of nutrition information."
Vermillion said it is not uncommon to help customers struggling with weight loss, high cholesterol or other conditions to find the vitamins, supplements, minerals or herbs they need to accomplish their goals.
"These are people who are using natural ways to benefit them and their lifestyle," Vermillion said.
Vickie Riggins of Anderson describes herself as a frequent shopper at GNC.
"I really appreciate the fact they are an added benefit to the community," Riggins said. "The employees are trained, very friendly people and very helpful."
Cravens reaches out to the community by talking about nutrition and wellness at health facilities and a local hospital.
"I volunteer my time to help educate people on nutrition, life, health and motivation," Cravens said. "And I try to reinvest my money and time back into the community."
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A celebration In 1994, Dave Cravens opened his first GNC store in Anderson. This month, the store, now at 2309 Charles St., is celebrating 20 years of business. To see more about this business and videos related to GNC, visit www.heraldbulletin.com/videos.