Cloquet Natural Foods celebrates 30 years, new owners

There's a certain sense of relaxation and well being that envelops you when you walk into Cloquet Natural Foods and Wellness Center at 502 Carlton Avenue. Perhaps it's the subtle aroma of fresh-ground spices that permeates the air. Perhaps it's t...

There's a certain sense of relaxation and well being that envelops you when you walk into Cloquet Natural Foods and Wellness Center at 502 Carlton Avenue. Perhaps it's the subtle aroma of fresh-ground spices that permeates the air. Perhaps it's the welcoming smile from the clerk at the front counter. Or just maybe it's that less tangible sense that you've been there before - and you're glad to be back.

Whatever it is that makes Cloquet Natural Foods so appealing, it has served the specialty shop in good stead in the community for the past 30 years - and growing.

New owners Deb and Bud McClure officially took over the reins of the business last September, but founder and long-time proprietor Linda Dahl is still working in tandem alongside them.

Bud is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Bev, a chemistry and physics teacher, initially got a job in the Carlton School District before later going on to chiropractic school. A clinical nutritionist, she also helped start one of the first food co-ops in the Twin Cities in her earlier days there, so their interest in Cloquet Natural Foods came quite naturally.

"I think it's an extension of who we are," mused Bud. "It's part of what we believe in, what we do, what we eat and how we live. This has been an extraordinary resource for Cloquet."


The McClures reside in Esko, and after being faithful customers at Cloquet Natural Foods over the years, they were quick to react when they heard Dahl might consider selling the business.

"One of the things that attracted us," said Deb, "especially since we're both educators and have always been involved in community education as well, was that Linda not only sold good food and great supplements but she educated the community in such an incredible way."

To make a long story short - the McClures made Dahl an offer to buy the business and she gladly accepted. Together, the three of them have moved forward to make the transition as seamless as possible.

After an intensive couple of months at the start, Dahl is now working part time with the business, currently coming in three days a week still living upstairs.

Deb works at the store full time and runs her chiropractic business there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. When she's not treating patients, she's in the store waiting on customers. Bud still teaches at UMD full time but works in the store in his free time. Both attest that having a "hands on" role at the store has been an eye-opening and gratifying experience.

"When you spend time in this store, you realize people come from 50 and 60 miles away," said Bud. "There's an extraordinary, positive energy that exists here."

"We have many customers from the Twin Cities," added Dahl. "Either they stop by when they come up to this area or we mail them their orders. I think it's the service - and the love that goes into it - that makes it so special."

Some of the technology advances the McClures have brought to the business have made it more customer-friendly and efficient to operate. They have begun to accept credit card transactions, the store is now wireless and they will be going to a new system soon in which all stock will be electronically inventoried. They have also added a Web site:, which they hope reflects a little about what they feel about the store.


In addition, the store is now open Saturdays as well as weekdays, and the McClures plan to expand the wellness part of the business and hold classes in the store on subjects such a nutrition, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and other health-related subjects.

They are also thinking of expanding, possibly by adding on to the east side of the building and/or up a story or two as well, increasing the building by as much as 1,000 square feet.

"There's such a demand for what we do," Bud said. "The industry is growing anywhere from 18-20 percent a year. We have outstanding people who come here to shop, and we'd like to be more full service for them right here in this community."

Cloquet Natural Foods currently has five part-time employees and is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The office of Joan Schadt, massage therapist, is located there and open by appointment Tuesday through Friday.

After seeing the business evolve and succeed over the years, Dahl is justifiably proud of what the McClures have already accomplished.

"They've kept the essence of the store, the value system, the low prices, the quality of products and the belief in not putting products on the shelves that they don't know about," said Dahl, " - but they've taken it a step higher by adding new products and enthusiasm."

And indeed, the successful, home-grown business continues to thrive as it heads into its 30th year in the community, offering an ever-growing spectrum of healthy foods, supplements and services.

It's life lived naturally - and that's made all the difference.


Pine Journal Publisher/reporter Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

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