It’s retirement for J. Vee Health Foods

rboone@theolympian.comDecember 4, 2012 

A combination of nearing retirement, a slower economy and also needing to take care of family members finally spelled the end for J. Vee Health Foods & Cafe, the co-owner of the business said Monday.

The last day for the longtime health food store and restaurant, which opened in 1966, was Friday, said Yvonne Stabno.

Stabno went to work for the business in 1975 and then bought it in 1993. Her husband, Tom, helped her run it, she said.

Her husband is ill now, and she also takes care of her 90-year-old mother. Plus, business began to slow in 2010, down about 50 percent or 60 percent from where it used to be, Stabno said.

“It was like family,” she said about the business. “I felt that the day I walked in until Friday night.”

In addition to J. Vee’s cafe, it was also a popular place to buy vitamins, so busy at times that it felt like a typical grocery store, she said. Stabno also said the business was known for its longtime and knowledgeable employees. At its peak, the 4,200-square-foot business had nearly 10 employees, she said.

Once customers learned last month that the business was closing, they rushed to dine at the cafe, sometimes resulting in a standing-room-only crowd, Stabno said.

The last person to call Stabno before the business closed was Virginia Mugartegui, she said.

J. Vee Health Foods got its start in 1966, launched by Virginia and her husband, Joe, at South Sound shopping center in Lacey.

The business later moved to 3720 Pacific Ave., just outside of Lacey. They also used to operate stores in Chehalis and Tumwater, but now all three are gone.

The Tumwater store, which the Mugarteguis renamed Smart Nutrition after selling the original store to Stabno, closed last year.

“I’m kind of sad and kind of glad,” Virginia told The Olympian last year about the store’s final days, adding that she was glad because she could “quit worrying about it.”

Born in Ellensburg and raised in Olympia, Virginia got into the health foods business partly because of her own health troubles.

She used to be plagued by headaches, and her husband always had a cold.

That changed after they started taking vitamins, she told The Olympian.

Stabno said the final day of business was sad, although her employees will “still be part of the family.”

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 @rolf_boone

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