TUMWATER - Smart Nutrition, a health foods business that served Tumwater for 33 years, closes today, making it the second Tumwater business to recently cease operations. The owner of Tumwater Video announced he will close his store at the end of the month or early in April.
While Tumwater Video fell victim to a change in movie-viewing habits, the owner of Smart Nutrition at 3405 Capitol Boulevard S.W. said this week that the slower economy and competition finally took its toll.
Olympia-based business consultant and counselor Douglas Hammel said the economy still is in recession and that many businesses, once the recession started, experienced a 30 percent to 40 percent drop in sales. Some businesses can control their costs by cutting jobs or assets, such as reducing the number of company vehicles, for example. Some costs, though, are harder to control, such as a longterm lease.
Virginia Mugartegui, 86, the owner and co-founder of the Tumwater business, launched it as J-Vee Health Foods with her husband, Joe, 44 years ago, she said.
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At its peak the business had three locations, including a store in Chehalis, she said. They opened their first store at South Sound shopping center in Lacey. That store and its name later were sold to an employee, and based on that agreement, they changed the name of their Tumwater store to Smart Nutrition. The Chehalis store since has closed, but J-Vee Health Foods continues to operate on Pacific Avenue in Olympia.
It was a family-run business. Virginia’s son, Craig, managed the Tumwater store, and her daughter, Kathryn, has been involved with the business since she was a teen, she said. Kathryn’s daughter, Felicia, has pitched in to help over the years. Kathryn called her mother a “pioneer in the health food business.”
The family announced about two months ago that the store would close, and since then most of its merchandise has been sold. The store occupied about 3,500 square feet and built a reputation on its personal attention to customer service. “We sincerely wanted people to get well and healthier,” Kathryn Mugartegui said.
In addition to customers coming to the store to say goodbye, Virginia also visited the store Wednesday.
“I’m kind of sad and kind of glad,” she said about the store’s final days, adding that she’s glad because she can “quit worrying about it.”
Born in Ellensburg and raised in Olympia, Virginia’s entry into the health foods business partly was inspired by her own health troubles. She said she used to be plagued by headaches, and her husband, Joe, always had a cold. That changed after they started taking vitamins, she said.
Although most of the store’s merchandise has been sold, the store continues to get calls about whether it stocks potassium iodide, assistant manager Gary DiDonato said. The store doesn’t have the product, but interest in the tablets has spiked following concerns about radiation released by damaged nuclear reactors in northern Japan. One customer called the store about the product Wednesday, but about 60 people called the store Tuesday, DiDonato said. Health officials caution that taking potassium iodide in reaction to the situation in Japan is ill-advised and unnecessary.
Smart Nutrition is open today from 9:30 a.m.- 6 p.m.