Alternative grocery store Food For Thought was a source for local veggies, spices, flours, and imported groceries for many, but the destruction of its former home by fire is taking its toll on a segment of the St. John’s community. The September 4th fire destroyed three attached buildings at Bates Hill on Duckworth Street, including the Oxfam building (where Food For Thought was located), an apartment building which housed George Street food vendor carts on the ground floor, and what was supposed to be a future location for Our Pleasure sexual health store.
Food For Thought owner Nancy Maher isn’t sure whether her business has a future. She says she is still wading through insurance forms and won’t make a decision about what to do until the end of the year.
The store started from nothing, 15 years ago, she says.
“Oxfam had a room which was being semi-used, and at the time I asked Bill Hynd [of Oxfam] if I could have a retail store there and pay them rent.
“It worked. At that time, we didn’t have a health food store in St. John’s and I thought, I’ll do this until someone bigger comes along.”
Food For Thought became a welcome addition to the community, in a downtown location.
“It was fun watching the store fill up as people said ‘I’d like this or that,’” she says. “I loved my customers.”
Maher says the fire changed all that in the blink of an eye.
“I had put a note on the window the day before to say I’d be in after ten the next morning. The next day, after the fire—when some walls were still standing but the building had been deemed unsafe—I could still see my note on the window. It took me a long time to get over that.”