Customers and staff hugged goodbye at Guerneville’s only health food store last week when owner Kimi Goodwin closed her Food For Humans grocery after more than 30 years serving the river’s eclectic clientele.
“It was great, but hard,” said Goodwin, asked what it was like running the town’s beloved health food store on First Street all those years.
She said, “I had very loyal customers” who sustained her store in the wood-frame house that was a former doctor’s office.
The low-key market under a shade tree seemed like the perfect retail alternative to the big Guerneville Safeway, Goodwin’s corporate next-door neighbor.
Food For Humans customers went there for fresh organic produce and eggs (often locally sourced and sold as one or a dozen), bulk herbs, spices, vitamins and tonics. The store was a folksy landmark where neighbors could buy Taylor Lane or Sunshine Roast coffees in bulk, pick up a slice of homemade cake or fill a one-ounce bottle with valerian tincture and get help from a clerk with a paper towel to wipe up any they spilled.
Shoppers were likely to run into old acquaintances with time to say how they were doing and share their views on the state of the world or at least the lower Russian River while also spooning chamomile or bancha from glass jars on the tea shelves.
“It was part of the fabric of this town,” said a customer on Saturday taking advantage of deep discounts including free produce as the store prepared to close.
“Your store is our go-to place,” lamented fellow Russian River business owner Robin Johnson after Goodwin announced the store’s shutdown earlier this year. “You have the most amazing employees. Talk about customer service,” said Johnson on a Facebook post. “I am also glad for you Kimi, you have done an amazing job for 31 years.”
There had been signals in the past year or two that Food For Humans might have to close or move. When an arson fire destroyed the West County Heath Center’s Guerneville clinic at the corner of Third and Church streets three years ago, WCHC began looking for a place to rebuild and expand. WCHC found the Food For Humans property that included two undeveloped acres on the river, more than enough room for WCHC to consolidate its growing medical, dental and administrative services under one roof in a new state-of-the-art building above the 100-year-flood level.
WCHC’s development plans didn’t require Food For Humans to leave, at least not right away, but the store’s long-term future was unclear.
Goodwin said she looked hard for a place to relocate in Guerneville but nothing came up. At its First Street location the building didn’t flood — her store stayed open during this year’s disaster when Safeway closed temporarily.
Searching for another river location, Goodwin knew she had to be above the flood zone. Food For Humans originally opened on River Road in the building now occupied by Bushgen’s garage, which took water to its doorways in February.
Food For Humans drowned under even deeper water in the Russian River flood of 1995.
“That was it,” said Goodwin, who moved her store into the First Street house and found a good fit — downtown, next to the Safeway, plenty of parking, and no flood worries short of some epochal climate-change deluge.
If she had been able to keep a long-term lease, “It might have been different,” said Goodwin. But with West County Health Centers hoping to break ground this summer on its state-of-the-art medical facility, Goodwin announced her retirement.
“They need the space,” she said.
“Change is always a challenge, and I hope you will help us as we go through this transition,” Goodwin told her customers in a farewell message on social media.
“This is a happy occasion, and we would love to stay positive in the presence of this change,” said Goodwin. “We wish to extend endless gratitude and appreciation to all who have supported us throughout the years. We really did it.”