Photos by Libby Rogers
The customers come all day, arriving with empty jugs and leaving with refills of pure antioxidant alkaline water. In the few minutes it takes to refill the bottles, they chat, exchange smiles, and collect hugs. Drink Smart Plus is more than a business to Anthony and Tonia Malone. It’s also a way to help customers’ health, to be good neighbors, and to be prayer partners.
It all started about a year ago, when Tonia discovered the benefits of alkaline water. She decided to try it to help her acid reflux, and her efforts soon turned into a business. Since that time, relying mostly on word of mouth advertising, Drink Smart Plus has earned many devotees, not only in the Montgomery area, where the business is located, but throughout the greater Houston area, too. Some customers drive from Pearland, Humble, Huntsville, Katy, and other locations to take advantage of the great-tasting, pure alkaline water available at Drink Smart Plus.
The Malones are homegrown—Anthony graduated from Montgomery High School, and Tonia is from Houston, where the couple lived and worked for many years. Anthony, who previously worked as an engineer for Hewlett Packard, recently joined forces with Tonia and brought his engineering expertise to the business.
“Let’s do it right”
Anthony and Tonia decided to research and develop their own system, so they studied other systems, devised improvements, and tested them for two years before starting the Drink Smart Plus business. “Let’s do it right,” Anthony says. “We knew what we wanted to do and wanted to be the best at it. In order to do that, you’ve got to know it in and out.”
Customers tell the Malones that they prefer bottled water over tap water, because they don’t like the taste of chlorine or the long-term health consequences of ingesting it daily. Drink Smart Plus, however, does more than simply eliminate chlorine from tap water. Anthony and Tonia use a high-tech reverse osmosis system, along with additional purification equipment, to purify water by greatly decreasing the total dissolved solids. The couple also treats the water with an ultraviolet light system to kill any viruses that may be lurking. Then, the water is re-mineralized, controlling the pH of the water according to customer’s individual preferences. Many customers prefer alkaline water, Tonia says, because they say it makes them feel so much better. One customer even decreased the size of his kidney stones, which eliminated the need for surgery and prompted his doctor to say, “Keep doing whatever you are doing!”
The human body, Anthony says, has a pH range of 7.3-7.4, but people tend to prefer their water to be more alkaline than acidic. “It has been said that sickness can’t dwell in an alkaline environment,” he says. “We can’t make any claims about what alkaline water will do for you,” Tonia says. “All we can tell you is that people feel good. The water hydrates you, and then it’s going to detox you as well. The biggest rave right now is how it makes your coffee and tea taste so much better!”
Customers also like Drink Smart Plus’ showerheads, which filter and purify water. Some boast that their complexions have improved; others say their psoriasis went away. Most say they no longer need to use lotion. One customer told Tonia that she liked her showerhead so much, she took it with her to a hotel when she had to evacuate her home during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Drink Smart Plus uses only recyclable BPA-free bottles of the highest quality. While many customers prefer to purchase water in liter, gallon, three-gallon or five-gallon containers, Drink Smart Plus also installs whole-house reverse osmosis filtration systems, as well as under-the-counter models for kitchens. In addition, the company provides top- or bottom-load hot and cold water dispensers, including a model for K-Cups.
“I am going to beat this”
One of Drink Smart Plus’ most loyal customers is B J Ordner, who was diagnosed in April 2017 with lung cancer that has spread to her spine and brain. In addition to radiation treatments and chemotherapy, B J began eating healthier foods and found a network of prayer partners. She had heard about the benefits of alkaline water, and she discovered Drink Smart Plus. “They helped me get started, and they have been a wonderful support ever since,” she says.
“Listen to your doctor,” she says. “Do what he says, but also do what’s in your power to help yourself. To me, that means eating clean, drinking alkaline water, exercising, and turning it over to God.” B J’s oncologist approves of everything she is doing to fight her cancer, she says, and is “beside himself” because she is doing so well. She travels, works at out the gym, and teaches Jazzercise as often as she can. “I am living my life,” she says. “I have faith that I am going to beat this. I believe that with all my heart.”
Although Drink Smart Plus delivers to customers in the Lake Conroe area, many customers like B J prefer to come by to pick up water refills. “I have to come get my hugs,” B J says. She also likes visiting with Cierra, the Malone’s granddaughter, who greets each customer with a smile. Anthony and Tonia are pleased to have been able to help B J. “We believe that God put us here for a reason in this particular location to meet people like B J and others,” Tonia says. “When she comes in, it is a blessing to us.”
“Something about the water”
Chris Terry, a veterinary assistant with The Mobile Vet Clinic, buys 15 to 20 gallons of water from Drink Smart Plus each week. That is enough for him, his wife, their three daughters, four dogs and two cats. “We don’t use tap water for anything except washing hands and laundry,” he says. “There’s something about the water that makes you want to keep on drinking it.” If the family runs out of Drink Smart Plus water, he says, nobody wants to drink tap water, no matter how thirsty they are. Even the dogs and cats, he says, refuse to drink tap water.
Many of Drink Smart Plus’ neighbors at Del Lago Plaza have also become devotees, including Kahl AC and Dave Hughes Homes. Dave Hughes Homes gives water bottles to all their customers and sub-contractors, and Drink Smart Plus designed labels with the Dave Hughes Homes logo for their bottles.
Anthony and Tonia started out offering alkaline water, but the business has grown to include other items. Now it’s Drink Smart Plus: the “plus” is natural products and services. The business offers a variety of vitamin C showerheads that remove chlorine and sediments while adding natural aroma oil. Natural products in the store include Young Living essential oils, dark chocolate made with pure honey, natural toothpaste, and energy drink mix, which is made with ginseng, spirulina powder, and green tea. In addition, Angela Robb, a certified massage therapist, comes to the shop weekly to provide reflexology and massage.
Whether they come to the shop for water, natural products, reflexology or hugs, customers all seem to have a success story to tell. “When they’re all here at one time,” Tonia says, “everybody’s talking!”
For more information, visit drinksmartplus.com or facebook.com/drinksmartplus4u.