History of Whole Foods Association

One of our most basic needs is food. For some, a balanced diet with additional supplements and vitamins can make the difference between health and illness.


Bill & Rene Shelton began exploring the relationship between food and health in the 1960s in hope to make improvements in their own lifestyle while living in Wichita Kansas. In 1971 Rene’s father passed away in Lawton, Oklahoma, which forced her 68-year-old mother, Edith to move off of the family farm. The same year the Sheltons opened their first health food store in Lawton, OK –Edith’s Special Foods- where Rene’s mother was the manager. They saw this as an opportunity to help improve lives of others.


Rene had battled fatigue most of her adult life and found that eating healthfully helped ease the symptoms. The couple’s interest in vitamins and supplements, and organic foods progressed naturally. Bill & Rene had no experience in retail but took a leap of faith by opening the store in Lawton. The store offered the “basics”, vitamins and minerals, lecithin, whole grains, yogurt, wheat germ, and just a few books about health. “There’s always a bit of anxiety when you open any new business, but we also had the belief in what we were doing,” Rene said.


The Shelton’s shortly discovered others believed in what they were doing as well. The small store’s popularity was growing and this encouraged them to open other locations in southwestern Oklahoma and Kansas. By 1974 the couple felt comfortable in opening a second location here in Wichita Kansas, pioneering the name –Whole Foods Association-.  This store was located in Pawnee Plaza, soon expanding to Twin Lakes Shopping Center and later adding stores in Hays, Manhattan, and Oklahoma City.


Today there are a total of five stores. Three Whole Foods are in Wichita Kansas, Clear Lakes Shopping Center, Normandie Shopping Center, and Prescott Shopping Center. The two other stores are named The Health Food Center and located in Oklahoma City, and Lawton Oklahoma.


“More people are interested now in their health than ever before.” Rene said. Today the availability and interest of products is much larger than it was 39 years ago! Rene continues, “When you combine that interest with the growth of alternative medicine, I see nothing but expansion and growth in the industry.”