SKOWHEGAN — Virginia Jewell already had planned to move her health food store — Ginny’s Natural Corner — from Skowhegan Plaza to downtown before the plaza’s parking lot flooded Sept. 30.

That event, which destroyed much of the parking lot, resulted in a 60 percent drop in her business, so she packed up the whole store — vegetables, spices, dried beans and food supplements — and moved early.

Ginny’s opened on Monday at 78 Water St. in the former Karen’s Kloset shopping and retail store downtown. On Wednesday, she and her helpers still were unloading boxes and stocking shelves.

“It’s all here, and we have the boxes organized so we can find almost everything,” said Jewell, a 38-year-old mother of four who has worked in health food stores since 1993. “We moved on Sunday. I love this place. It has more potential for the future for cooking classes, and we can do a lot more education.”

The store has a large back room where bulk grains, flour and nuts can be bagged up for retail sales and she can hold cooking demonstrations. The store, which in a previous incarnation was Three Gs Restaurant, has two entrances, one on Water Street and one on Commercial Street, and a large basement for cool storage.

Jewell, of Canaan, said she still is awaiting final inspections, more shelving and some fresh paint to be totally up and running.

“I love it. We’ve already seen an increase in business — even on Monday, pawing through boxes,” she said. “It’s been crazy. Because of the damage in the parking lot at my other place, I would have been out of business in two weeks. It was horrible.”

Skowhegan Code Enforcement Officer Randy Gray said about half of the parking lot at Skowhegan Plaza remains closed, but the metal culvert beneath the lot is structurally sound and can remain in place. He said with continuing earthwork, the parking lot should be up to 75 percent capacity in the next few days.

Jewell said the entrance to her former store was fine for customers, but deliveries had to come in the rear door, and that made it difficult to keep the shelves stocked.

Jewell’s new store is owned by Kevin Holland, who moved his Variety Drug store, which was along the same block, to a newly built store near the Skowhegan Indian sculpture. Karen’s Kloset moved to the former Kel-Met Cafe on Madison Avenue. The cafe moved to a new location farther up Madison Avenue. The former drugstore next to Ginny’s remains vacant.

Jewell said she and her team are working 18 to 20 hours a day getting the building up to code. She said they plan to have a grand opening in coming weeks.

Jewell, who had worked at Spice of Life Natural Foods in Skowhegan for 17 years, went off on her own in October 2012 with her new store at the Skowhegan Plaza. At the time, there were three health food stores in Skowhegan. Spice of Life, which first opened on Water Street in 1992, remains in business in the Skowhegan Village Plaza on Upper Madison Avenue. The other store, Simply Natural, opened in the Kennebec Village plaza near Tractor Supply, but later moved to Fairfield and finally closed.

Jewell said she grew up in the health food business, starting at The Depot when she was 16 and later at New Moon Rising in Waterville.

“I definitely have the experience. I’ve been very blessed with family, with life, with my business,” she said. “If I don’t carry it, I can get it, because I network with other health food stores. I don’t mind calling around to other health food stores or sending (customers) up the street to Spice of Life.”

The next step, she said, is developing a business plan to apply for assistance under the town’s downtown entrepreneur grant program. The store is open six days a week and is closed on Saturday.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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