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Store branches out into bamboo clothing

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The paint can on the floor is a dead giveaway. The interior of Chaz Nutrition and Health, which opened recently at 612 Davis Street, is still being tweaked. But after talking with co-owner J. Klaer Twist, you get the sense that the store will continue to evolve, even after the paint cans disappear.

“I wanted to go with the Evanston thing of being like a little independent, with hard to find things,” he says.

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Laid back and friendly, Twist is in the store seven days a week. He shrugs, “I love retail.”

Twist spent 10 years as manager, then co-owner of the Evanston GNC Nutrition store. After losing his lease at the Evanston Athletic Club, he moved into Sherman Plaza, but that didn’t work out.


The paint can on the floor is a dead giveaway. The interior of Chaz Nutrition and Health, which opened recently at 612 Davis Street, is still being tweaked. But after talking with co-owner J. Klaer Twist, you get the sense that the store will continue to evolve, even after the paint cans disappear.

“I wanted to go with the Evanston thing of being like a little independent, with hard to find things,” he says.

chaz_nutrition_twist.jpg

Laid back and friendly, Twist is in the store seven days a week. He shrugs, “I love retail.”

Twist spent 10 years as manager, then co-owner of the Evanston GNC Nutrition store. After losing his lease at the Evanston Athletic Club, he moved into Sherman Plaza, but that didn’t work out.

“I broke off from GNC and wanted to go independent, so I could do what I’m doing now with eco-friendly apparel and yoga supplies,” he says. Changing the business name and identity violated the lease. “I decided it was as good a time as any to go,” he says. He wanted to downsize and do more internet business as well. He adds, “I found this place, which is a third the price of what I had.”

“I love this location. It’s the thing that sparked me to try apparel. I thought: Hey, I’ve got a dressing room,” he says. “For yoga, it’s perfect for people who want to change into comfortable clothes for their class. It all just seemed to be right.”

Sports nutrition is still 60-75 percent of the store’s business, especially Northwestern University athletes. “I knew what companies had a good reputation and had the same basic formulas as GNC had,” he says. “I do a lot of work with NOW Nutrition,” an Illinois-based company.

Being green is also a big part of the store’s identity. “The clothes that I want to carry are all bio-degradable, eco-friendly things from bamboo and hemp,” says Twist. “The handbags that I carry are all hemp and they’re all fair trade, which is important to me.”

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“It just kind of seemed like a natural branch out. I started looking for hemp, and then I saw the bamboo and somebody said, ‘Bamboo feels great.’ So I got a couple of shirts and they went over well. I’ve had people pick them up in their size in every color.”

The store is an eclectic mix of products: shelves of sports nutrition and supplement products, yoga bags and mats hanging in the window, shirts and handbags on one wall. There are rows of Himalayan salt lamps on the back wall and a basket of blown glass bracelets on the counter. Twist seems open to any idea, including selling products on consignment. Someone brought in a yoga bag made from found fabrics, so he decided to try them. He’ll bring back samples of some other products when he returns from a vacation in India next month.

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Twist is branching out in other ways, by arranging for classes to be held in a space blocked off by screens at the back of the store. “I’m trying to bring people in that have probably never been in my store,” he says. “I’ve just hooked up with a great yoga instructor,” he says, who will offer private lessons. “I’ve talked to a breathing meditation instructor and I think he wants to do a meditation class in the back.” Chicago Northshore Gyrotonic may hold classes there as well. He says, “My idea isn’t to make money off of that back space. It’s to bring customers in through the door.”

“I would like people to be attracted again to the independent stores that Evanston has always been known for,” he says. “I’m going to try and cater to that. I’m trying to find things or services that people around here don’t have or offer.”

He adds, “It’s a nice shopping block. The neighbors are nice. It’s gonna work out quite well, I think.”

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