A not-so-natural-choice: Health food store co-owner retiring and liquidating Central Avenue store

At her business known as Natural Choices For Healthful Living, co-owner Carolyn Behrman’s natural choice always has been to continue working, despite the fact that, at age 75, she is well into what others might consider retirement time.

“The years just creep up on you,” she said.

She and husband and co-owner Dennis finally have decided that, after 27 years, they want more freedom to visit grandchildren in Colorado and elsewhere. So they are in the midst of liquidating and closing their 5,600-square-foot natural grocery and vitamin supplement store at 1825 Central Ave. one that has included everything from a deli to organic produce to the store’s own line of supplements.

“It was a very challenging decision,” she said. “I have felt like I was in some way letting down the community.”

That’s because her place has offered among the largest variety of specialized health-oriented inventory books, pamphlets, juices and dairy-alternative drinks, non-GMO meats, and more of any such local business.

“But the good news now is that most other grocery stores are now carrying organic items,” she said.

She figures she will remain open until at least the end of the month.

She initially launched the store near 17th Street and Central Avenue after a 22-year career at then-Cummins Engine Co., followed by a brief stint at Arvin Industries. She has been in her current location, previously occupied by Mike and Pam Cordry’s Animal World Pet Center, since 2007 after moving from 1113 16th St.

“This started as my hobby,” Behrman said. “But it has become my go-to.”

Through the years, customers sometimes have included such health-conscious residents as local doctors and their families. Supplements and natural foods helped her heal from a serious genetic liver illness in 2012. A voracious reader and researcher, she has consulted with customers for years about various lifestyle changes, foods and supplements might help certain conditions or maladies.

“I’ve always felt like there was plenty of room for all of us (pursuing health),” she said of paid health practitioners.

Bedford resident Harry Doering is glad of that. He met Behrman only three weeks ago, and a simple change of adding the polyphenol curcumin to his diet has curtailed his inflammation enough that he is physically moving in ways and with ease like he has not done in years. Plus, some blurred vision he was experiencing because of his diabetes now has cleared.

“What I will miss the most, of course, is Carolyn herself,” Doering said, adding that he hopes to keep in touch.

Another supplement she suggested he try has dramatically improved his blood sugar. He has been careful to keep his doctors informed and has continued his prescription medicine.

Columbus resident Myra Foster has purchased groceries from Behrman since she first opened her natural-oriented business. Foster initially began searching for healthier diet options such as replacing processed sugar with natural sweeteners. She quickly grew not only to trust Behrman, but to admire and love her for how she esteemed customers needs.

“She has pretty much written the book on individualized customer service,” Foster said, adding that the store operator has ordered special items for her a number of times over the years.

Behrman chuckled about her and her staff’s focused push to assist customers in every way.

“We’ve always said that we do just about everything except take the product for them,” Behrman said.

Foster also mentioned that Behrman “has been a wonderful bridge” between sometimes limited options of mainstream medical thought to alternative research of new, natural possibilities to wellness.

“She has been an absolute jewel to this community, and has performed a great community service,” Foster said. “She’ll be leaving a big hole.”

Besides operating her and her spouse’s business, she also has traveled to the Washington D.C. to lobby on behalf of the Natural Nutritional Foods Association. Some of her staffers hope to open a smaller version of her type of business, perhaps in a 1,000-square-foot space, sometime in the future. They currently are seeking a location.

“In many ways, all this (business) gradually grew by word of mouth,” Behrman said. “And I think it’s just been a matter of providing the right products at the right time.”