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@Work: Natural Food Grocery and Deli

Feb. 10, 2005 – Back in the mid-1970s, health food stores were still an emerging phenomena for most of us. What was contained in these rows and rows of organic products, vitamins lining the wall, teas of every flavor, loose or bagged, and books about everything from yoga to super immunity? And, to non-vegetarians, tofu still had a decade before it hit the mainstream.
Sherrie Davis has been in the health food business for almost 30 years, and for half of that time she has owned the Natural Food Grocery and Deli.
"When I was in college I went into a health food store and felt I was home," she says.
Davis got a job at the store. That job led to another, which led to another. Before she knew it, Davis had worked her way through college and was managing a store in Orlando, Fla.
"Way back then, people thought tofu was gross. Now they've done so much with tofu and soy," she says, then adds with a laugh, "The packaging makes it prettier too."
Vacation brought this health food pioneer to St. Thomas. Davis found work on a sailboat which "is what I really wanted," she says, but the business that took her through college called once again. She found herself in Sub Base at the Natural Food Grocery and Deli and got to work.
"There was nothing else around in Sub Base back then, so the line for lunch used to stretch out the door."
Davis had the opportunity to buy the business in 1989, and decided to purchase both the Long Bay and Sub Base locations. She sold the store in Sub Base two years ago to spend more time with her family.
So what does Natural Food Grocery and Deli offer that other groceries don't? A huge selection of vitamins and herbs in capsules and liquids, teas, organic body care products, organic cleaning products, bulk grains, beans, oats, rice, flax seeds, spices, a low carb section, cereals, Indian food section, macrobiotic section, frozen foods, soft serve tofu ice cream, books on health, aromatherapy products, incense, candles, even nubby slippers, a kid's section ("Which has grown a lot since I had one!" says Davis) and free-range turkey, chicken, beef and buffalo, with some ostrich on the way.
"We get customers that appreciate us and make it all worthwhile."
Davis has been having so much fun working in an industry she loves. "I always thought, 'I'll get a real job after this.'"
After being in the business for almost 30 years, she now concedes that this is her real job. "I love it because we're helping people. When they say something we have helps them, it makes me feel good."
Even though she's spent most of her life in the business, Davis learns new things about health every day. "I try to read everything on a problem and go into it in a holistic way to figure out how to make the body better."
Her staff will do the same. "They're all really knowledgeable. If people have questions, we know how to reference it and find the answer. Sometimes health foods help where medicines don't."
And don't forget the deli where creative, healthy cuisine is created by Theresa Tonge. "We make hundreds of veggie burgers from scratch every day. Every day there is a vegan special," says Davis. If you don't have time to wait for an order, you can always call it in.
The Natural Food Grocery and Deli at Mandela Circle is open 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Call them at 775-3737.

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