After 39 years at 1738 Sweeney St., Gene's Health Food is moving a block to the west, more than doubling both its seating capacity and square footage and adding new wellness services.

And the new location at 1738 Moseley St. faces busy 18th Street rather than a side street.

"This was Gene's dream, " Sandra Mendez, the late Gene Clark's granddaughter-in-law, said Thursday. "He would be so happy."

In 1980, Clark was working at the old Green River Steel plant.

He began going to a business called Sally's Natural Foods for health products.

One day, he mentioned to the owner that he would like to own his own business some day.

The owner offered to sell.

And the store soon became Gene's Health Food.

Back then, health foods were still thought to be a "hippie fad" by a lot of people.

Two of Clark's grandchildren -- Andrew Keller and Karissa Costello -- bought the business from him in September 2013.

He died on July 26, 2015, at age 85.

Last year, Keller and Costello added manager Olivia Vancil to the partnership.

In March 2016, the store added a food truck -- Fresh By Gene.

About that time, it added a wellness center north of the store with massage and alternative therapies.

A teaching kitchen was added two years ago.

All that will be moving to the new location, former home to a transmission shop and masonry business.

The property includes three buildings constructed between 1968 and 2002.

Keller said the buildings have a combined 8,000 square feet -- up from 3,200 square feet in the current location.

Mendez, Keller's wife, said a grand opening is planned for Nov. 20 with a 12:15 p.m. ribbon cutting.

"But we're hoping for a soft opening the first week of November," she said.

On Nov. 17, Mendez said, "we'll have a crocus planting party" in front of the building with 600 crocuses in the grassy area next to the sidewalk along 18th Street.

Crocuses are the first plants to bloom in the spring and will decorate the area, she said.

In the spring, Gene's will be planting a kitchen garden in a grassy area on the west side of the property to grow vegetables.

Keller said the deli will double its seating capacity to 40 seats.

"We really need that," he said. "Now, people are having to wait for tables."

An outdoor dining area is coming next spring.

Keller said healthy food costs more than fast food, "but our prices are comparable with fast-casual restaurants in town."

A children's menu is coming, and the dining room is designed for easy seating for people with special needs.

The business will be adding two to four more employees in the near future and maybe more later on, Keller said.

There are eight now.

The increased space will allow Gene's to add more healthy living seminars and cooking classes.

The grocery section will also expand with more produce and other foods.

"We want to create a well-being space, so people can feel well when they come in," Mendez said.

"I'm a foodie," Keller said. "And this is a foodie place."

Mendez said Gene's is getting green-certified.

That means LED lights, energy efficiency, compostable and recyclable plates, things like that.

Keller said the business has a recycle bin that will be open for public use.

The tables are being repurposed.

And repurposed sassafras and poplar wood is being used in the dining room.

"This is the best business decision we've made," Keller said of the pending move.

He said they applied for a grant from the city's Triplett Twist project, but the money had already been allocated.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.