A Central West End favorite has reopened in Forest Park Southeast.
Golden Grocer is now open on Chouteau Avenue, offering a wide variety of holistic products, health foods and ready-to-eat vegan meals. The store has been around for years, but its most recent iteration is owned by Jamila Owens-Todd and her husband, Jermain Todd. And although Owens-Todd has not owned stores previous to Golden Grocer, she has one advantage that over many health food stores: She's a licensed naturopath.
Owens-Todd graduated with a degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine's four-year naturopathic doctor program, one of seven federally accredited four-year medical schools in North America for formal studies in naturopathic medicine. According to Owens-Todd, naturopathic doctors are trained in science and the pathology of illness, but the goal is to provide alternative treatment methods through things like herbs, natural supplements and dietary suggestions.
In 2007, Owens-Todd returned to St. Louis to start her own practice. Her office was just down the street from the original Golden Grocer location, so she and the previous owner quickly developed a business relationship; when Owens-Todd would recommend additional vitamins to a customer, she could recommend they walk down to Golden Grocer to pick some up.
In 2018, as the 71-year-old owner was ready to retire, he reached out to Owens-Todd about possibly buying the business from him. At the time, she didn't think that she could run both the business and her practice, so she turned him down, but when he came back to her in 2019, she said yes. She came on as a partner and eventually transitioned into full owner in January of 2020.
"Let's look at the timeline of that," she says with a laugh, acknowledging that she took on the business without knowing that a pandemic would hit St. Louis in the following weeks.
Given that grocery stores are essential businesses, Golden Grocer stayed open amid the pandemic, and at times she had trouble keeping the shelves stocked. But even in an uncertain period, Owens-Todd knew she wanted to expand the store, and although it was a hard jump to make, she went for it.
"The challenge of taking on a new business, and then the challenge of moving it to a new location is... a challenge," she says. "And so experiencing that was difficult, but so far, it's been great."
The new store on Chouteau offers many of the same items as the original Golden Grocer, but just in a larger space with more options. Offerings range from health products (shea butter, essential oils, natural sleep aids, cleansers) to pantry staples (bulk grains, teas, pastas, chips, honey) to fresh food products (local produce, pressed juices). The store also keeps ready-to-eat meals on hand from local Adina's Vegan Cuisine, which makes familiar meals like mac 'n' cheese, cobbler and barbecued protein in plant-based versions.
As the Black owner of a health food store, Owens-Todd says she is disappointed that it is not the norm for women who look like her to own this sort of business, but she recognizes the importance of being a point of visibility in the industry.
"One of the things that we as Black people have often suffered from was not seeing examples, not having representation, not seeing the tangible reality of business ownership in the various different ways it may present itself," she says.
However, she hopes to be able to help bolster other businesses who create great products, especially Black businesses, that may not be afforded the opportunity to end up in larger stores.
"I want to remove barriers for products' opportunities," she says.
Golden Grocer, 4501 Chouteau Ave., Forest Park Southeast, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.367.0405, goldengrocerstl.com