For Sale: Nature's Pantry

Meredith Yates won't continue with her deceased mother's organic food market and holistic wellness center

Meredith Yates will stop following in her mother Anne Yates' footsteps by the end of August. Since the senior Yates' death in October 2007, her daughter has been operating the stores her mother founded, the organic food market Nature's Pantry and the holistic wellness center Well By Nature. But about a month ago, she put both Bearden Hill/Kingston Pike buildings on the market, and will close her doors Aug. 31.

"Meredith was three when her mother opened Nature's Pantry in 1977, and she's just at a point where she wants to do something different," says Patricia Baker, the body care manager who's been with Nature's Pantry 10 years and was tapped by Yates to speak on her behalf to the community when required.

The elder Yates was a holistic health and nutrition pioneer for Knoxville, opening Nature's Pantry as a health-food store in Homberg Place and then moving it down the road in 1994 and expanding to include a full-scale grocery. She started Well by Nature in the building next door in 2002. A characteristic comment about Ann Yates' death on the Nature's Pantry blog reads, "Farewell to a Warrior Goddess... Somehow it is not hard to imagine her flying off into the stratosphere in gorgeous robes, rearranging the constellations & livening up the moon."

The buildings are listed with Dean-Smith Realty. The 9,000 square foot Well By Nature has a price tag of $2.1 million, and the 6,000 square foot Nature's Pantry building $2 million, says Anthony W. Edwards, Jr., the agent handling the sale. "The buildings are showing actively... quite a bit, actually, every week," he says. "The Well By Nature building I've shown for professional to medical, even as a veterinary office. Nature's Pantry I'm showing to similar businesses and gourmet stores, individuals, not a chain like Earth Fare. I've also shown it to a handful of individuals who are interested in keeping it the way it is."

While they hope loyal customers will stick with them until the end, Baker does feel that other local businesses can furnish the needs of the natural foods customer.

What will be most missed is the camaraderie and caring. "I've established many lasting relationships with the people in the community who are not only customers but friends" says Baker, who will stay until the door closes for the last time. "It will be the end of an era for me, too."