Kathy Simon

Kathy retiring from the kitchen

Kathy Simon taking a well deserved retirement from the health food industry

Kathy’s Kitchen will be closing its doors at the end of the month.

Owner Kathy Simon has been in business for 30 years and decided it was a good time to retire.

She said she’s going to miss the business and the community that revolves around it.

“It’s an emotional time, when you have 30 years invested,” she said, though she noted the time had come. “I turned 70 years old, business isn’t that great and I got a call from somebody that wanted to lease the building. Once you turn 70, it’s time to think about doing other things.”

Customers will still be able to buy most of the products she sells, as she made arrangements to have Nutter’s Bulk and Natural Food and Millennium Health carry products that Kathy’s Kitchen carried.

“They’ve got a list of products that I sell that they don’t usually sell,” she said. “There are some things that are only available here, so we wanted to make sure those customers are taken care of.”

She has made plans for retirement, “but it’s the best laid plans of mice and men — my husband just had a heart attack, this is his second heart attack.”

She said originally she was telling everyone she needed to retire while she could still walk, but now she thinks it’s rather that she needs to retire while he can still walk.

“We’re thinking we might buy a little motorhome and do some circle trips, take the dogs and have some fun,” she said. “Do a little travelling, do a little volunteering — I’d like to volunteer over at the library to do story time with the kids, I’d like to volunteer at the hospital auxiliary.”

She said last week when her husband had the heart attack she walked into the hospital looking like a “lost sheep.”

“There’s lovely ladies from the auxiliary that sit there at a little desk and they were really helpful — they told me where he was and guided me. It was nice. So I sort of want to pay that forward.

A number of times during the interview customers came in to give her a hug.

“That happens a lot ,” she laughed. “A lot of my customers have become my friends.”

She said she originally started the business when her husband was leaving the RCMP just over 30 years ago.

“We thought we needed a way to make a living and the store was for sale. It was Hall’s Health Hut at the time,” she said.

They bought the store and she hired on her kids, in high school at the time, to work.

One of her children would work, while the other would go home and make supper. They would take turns.

“It was just me and the two kids for awhile. Then gradually we expanded. We started out where Trends and Treasure is now. We were there for a long time then we bought this building.”

Kathy said she’s found that the health food industry is in a constant state of crisis.

For years there was a long and protracted negotiation with the Canadian Health Food Association and the government.

“Things like garlic pills, hawthorn … were all under the drug act,” she said. “The health food industry said no, that’s not drugs. That’s food.”

The government brought in the Natural Product Number.

“It’s a subset of the drug act,” she said. “We all thought we were in a win situation at that time, but as it turned out we weren’t.”

She noted that the Canadian government’s strict rules and regulations are both a good and bad thing. Good because the strict rules protect customers from the fly-by-night manufacturers looking to make a quick buck, but bad because it has put off reputable companies from the States and Europe who don’t want to jump through hoops to get their products to our comparably small market.

There has also been a push from the health food companies to go to mass market, rather than only selling to the small businesses. That puts added pressure as big companies can buy huge quantities and get a deal.

She said her bow out of the health food market in Cranbrook will help the other competing health food businesses in town.

Jessie Clinton is her good friend and has worked there for eight years. She said Kathy is the best boss she’s ever had.

“Jessie and I have known each other since high school,” Kathy said. “It’s been a slice.”

The store cat Titten has found a new home as well.

“Titten has gone to live with Pat from next door at Pages Books,” she said.

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