From corporate finance to health food—it’s not exactly the professional trajectory one would expect. In 1994, Clement Lau came to the US from Singapore for college. After graduating, he ended up at a firm on Wall Street, handling mergers and acquisitions for huge corporations.
Clement Lau and friends at the new Hyde Park Earthgoods
In 2001, Clement discovered Earthgoods, the New Paltz health food store. “The very first day I stepped in I loved it. I said to myself ‘I’d like to buy this store.’ So for an 8- to 10-year period, when I wanted to recharge, I would leave city, stay at Minnewaska, shop at Earthgoods, and eat at P&Gs.”
“I always knew that one day I wanted to be my own boss. A part of me thought let’s wait until I retire from my corporate job, and then maybe start a business at that time. Then I realized, why wait? Why not do it while I’m still young?” So he started looking for a health food store in the image of Earthgoods.
Throughout his whole search, a voice kept telling him, “Check the business listings. Check if EarthGoods is for sale.” And he did, many times. “Finally one day I went online I saw ‘Health food store in college town for sale.’ I called broker and asked if the listing was for Earthgoods. He said yes, so I dropped everything and moved to New Paltz.”
“I had achieved my academic and professional goals and it was time to move on. I wanted to do something that would contribute to the community. It was literally like a death and rebirth.”
That was 2010. Clement signed a 5-year lease that just ended this past June 2015, when he closed his New Paltz doors. In July, he reopened the store across the river (at a location more than twice the size) in Hyde Park. Clement laments closing the Wallkill Valley location, “To me, Earthgoods was a New Paltz establishment. I think a lot of people felt the same way. I do feel a responsibility—like I kind of ended a legacy. But on the other hand I also wanted to grow the business.” Faithful shoppers will be happy to hear that once the Hyde Park location is on its feet, Clement will be looking for a second location in New Paltz.
“I really want to promote health and wellness and I run the store as a community center, education center, healing center, all in one. There are many reasons I left New Paltz, but part of it is because it was too small to realize my bigger vision. The new space is bigger and I am able to do a lot of those things.”
In a few short months, Clement has completely plugged into the Hyde Park health and wellness scene, elevating it to new levels. Initially, he got together with a few other business owners to share ad space in a magazine. Then they said, why not do a wellness day? The event grew and grew, until they had 17 local health and wellness businesses setting up shop in his store. “Chiropractor, skin care, soaps, hypnosis. We called it the Hyde Park Wellness Day. We had a really good turnout and everybody was really happy. We are going to do the next one in May.” In interim, Earthgoods will be hosting events every couple of months. Plus he offers free tutoring several nights a week.
With copious parking, double the square footage, and half the rent of New Paltz, Earthgoods is in a good place to keep expanding its offerings, and with that Clement Lau’s good will. “Obviously I was the store to do well financially, but I also want to spread community, spirituality, oneness, holistic health and wellness. That is why I am very excited to be here because I am able to do all these things.”