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The Vix Deep Discount drugstore chain will open its first free-standing Herbs Nutritional Center on Oct. 25 at 705 Maple Road in Williamsville.

The 6,000-square-foot store will feature a wide range of vitamins and supplements, homeopathic medicines, sports medicine, diet products and natural body care items.

Vix debuted the Herbs concept in mid-1996 at its Transit Road store and has since introduced the nutrition centers in three Buffalo-area outlets and a Rochester store. The new free-standing store replaces what had been a department of the adjacent Vix on Maple Road.

Vix Vice President Nick Mastorides said the popularity of those 800-square-foot stores-within-a-store led to the decision to set up the free-standing Herbs.

"It's where we'd like to go with Herbs," Mastorides said. "It's very different from what our competitors are doing. We're very committed to these product lines."

The new store also will feature a health and nutrition library, outfitted with computer terminals where customers can research the uses of herbal medications. While these natural pharmaceuticals have seen a tremendous leap in popularity in recent years, many consumers pass them by in favor of more familiar over-the-counter products.

"A lot of it is an education process," Mastorides said. "We plan to break down that hurdle of confusion by having a lot of information in the store, backed by a well trained staff to assist customers."

The store also was designed with browsing and reading in mind, with space set aside with comfortable chairs to sit in. It also features a small, self-service cafe, featuring organic coffees and teas, and other natural beverages and snacks.

Future plans call for unique services, such as consultations with professional nutritionists, herbologists, iridologists (health assessments involving the eyes) and therapeutic massage.

Herbs also plans to add a line of natural pet products, including pet sunscreens and arthritis formulas.

Vix Deep Discount is a subsidiary of Amherst-based Tops Markets Inc.

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