Skip to content

Class in session: Health food workshops in demand, says store owner

In the debut of SooToday's new feature Thrive, we speak with The Country Way owner Shonna Saari, who says local agencies are starting to request workshops led by healthy-eating experts
Stock image

Two years ago, when Shonna Saari took ownership of the Country Way Health Food Store on Brock Street, she had a new vision in mind – to build community through health literacy and education.

While the store has been in operation for a total of 42 years, Saari has used her ownership to heighten the store’s profile and its passion for hosting health seminars had attracted attention.

“For the first two years, we really just worked on establishing ourselves as a business,” says Saari. “But during the past six months, we’ve been able to focus much more on our workshops.”

These have included partnering with an arthritis support group, who asked holistic nutritionist (and store employee) Sophie Storozuk to present on reducing joint pain through nutritional supplements.

The store has also partnered with Marilyn Dennis Show regular Karlene Karst. The author of This Kitchen Is For Dancing was invited by Saari to come to give two separate talks at Quattro — an event that drew 100 participants locally.

“The first talk was on healthy fats and the most recent one was on a variety of topics, like easy ways to incorporate healthy foods into your everyday routine,” says Saari.

But the Country Way also draws on its local expertise. Brittany Nicholson, a holistic nutritionist and store employee, will be offering a “Do It Yourself” Kombucha Night on Nov. 28.

Kombucha, a fermented tea, has become famous for its rich antioxidant dose and probiotic composition and is offered for free to shoppers who come in to browse at the store.

Now local agencies have come to the Country Way to request seminars. “The next one coming up is a presentation we are doing in partnership with Women in Crisis,” says Saari. “They approached us to do an educational workshop on supplements, teas, and other health offerings that help with stress reduction and inflammation problems.”

Saari says she will be bringing samples from the store for women to try.

One unique item Saari plans on bringing is the little known chaga mushroom. Annanda Chaga, a Sault-owned business, has been distributing the product for a few years now in various forms — from chaga mushroom chunks to powders to tinctures. The mushroom, which grows on the side of birch trees, is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps a variety of ailments.

“Everything that I have in the store has been certified through Health Canada,” says Saari. Chaga is one of a few products she’ll be introducing to the residents of Women in Crisis.

“Supporting local businesses is truly my passion – and I feature products from over 30 local vendors in the store,” says Saari.

Local honey, maple syrup, bone broth, sauekraut, local beef, local bison, and even local pottery are just a few products in the store.

“We also welcome those new to health and wellness to the store to ask questions,” says Saari. “That’s what health literacy is all about.”

We're looking for ideas! Know about a new health and wellness trend that should be featured in this column? Let us know at