Health food forerunner turns 40

by Tiffany Mayer

After four decades in business, it would be easy to think that there would be little in the way of surprises anymore.

But Jason Sebeslav, owner of the 40-year-old Peanut Mill Natural Foods Market, is always caught off guard when people discover what the store is really about.

“We still get those people who come in and say, ‘Oh, I thought you only sold peanuts,’” Sebeslav says. “We want them to know we’re a health food store — and for the people who know we’re a health food store, we want them to know we’re not just vitamins and herbs.”

In addition to those core health supplements, the Peanut Mill is also fresh bread, ready-to-eat foods, organic produce and dairy and clean body care, too. And of course there’s the fresh peanut butter, ground in the store’s namesake peanut mill since the store opened its doors.

There’s no better time to discover all this St. Catharines store offers than during its 40th anniversary celebration, which runs April 27-30. The event will feature sales, special guests, prize draws and even a 70s-themed day as a nod to The Peanut Mill’s founding in 1976.

“We do quite a lot in our reasonably small space to be the place where people can get the natural health items they need,” Sebeslav says. That isn’t The Peanut Mill’s only secret to business longevity, however.

Forty years is a remarkable achievement, particularly for an independent, locally owned, specialty business. The success of the store, founded by Sebeslav’s mother Antje Wirth in Niagara-on-the-Lake, can also be attributed to the growing interest people have in taking care of themselves. Health food stores are no longer on the fringe.

Wirth and Sebeslav have always taken care of the people coming through their doors, too, whether they’re there to shop or work. Some of the store’s nearly 20 employees, which include a naturopath, herbalist and holistic nutritionists, have been part of The Peanut Mill team for 15 to 20 years.

And like the family that started the store, the staff is passionate and knowledgeable about the products they sell. They live the lifestyle, and the latest health and nutrition information is always on their radar, keeping The Peanut Mill a leader in a growing market.

“We always strive to treat both our customers and employees with integrity, and we’ve wanted to be a ‘model citizen’ in the community in terms of running our business,” Sebeslav said. “I do have to hand it to my mother for starting a store that’s always been run that way, and I’m proud to have taken it over and to hit this milestone.”

Join the Peanut Mill in celebrating those successes when the store welcomes special guests including health columnist Dr. Gifford Jones, alternative medicine MD Dr. Zoltan Rona, and Mayor Walter Sendzik, who will be present at the cake-cutting celebration at 1pm on the 29th. Special promotions, sampling and prize draws are also in the works for the party.

“It’s certainly a highlight,” Sebeslav says of the occasion. “I’m proud of who and what we are as a business, and I’m so thankful that our community has supported us for 40 years.”