Original ‘MaMa Jean,’ now 86, sells Ava store; new owners say they’ll continue her legacy
By Kaitlyn McConnell
Editor’s note: This story about Jean’s Healthway store on the Ava square is reprinted from Kaitlyn McConnell’s popular blog, Ozarks Alive! For more of McConnell’s stories about interesting people and places in the Ozarks, visit ozarksalive.com.
For more than 40 years, Jean’s Healthway has been a cornerstone business in Ava, offering locals a close-to-home option for organic groceries, quality supplements, local goods and more. While these qualities will continue in the new year, the store on Ava’s square begins a new chapter: On Dec. 30, 2020, it passed to Jeff and Rachel Barry from founder and longtime proprietor Jean Farbin — the namesake ‘Mama Jean’ of Springfield’s MaMa Jean’s Natural Markets — who recently celebrated her 86th birthday and decided it’s time to retire.
The Barrys aren’t strangers to the store. Rachel, who lives in rural Douglas County, has been managing the store for several months. She also has spent more than seven years there as an employee, and she grew up shopping at Jean’s store.
“I shopped at her original store in town as a little girl with my mom — and especially enjoyed getting frozen yogurt treats,” says Rachel. “I am excited about being able to continue her legacy and help support the health and wellness efforts of people throughout this area.”
A registered dietitian, Rachel is invested in the store’s mission and is excited about expanding its services and offerings. The family’s ownership, in fact, stems from a love of nutrient-dense local foods and participating in a community garden. That appreciation has grown into living the values of healthy living and sharing those techniques with others, such as through regenerative agriculture, functional medicine nutrition, natural living and parenting and local community food-sheds.
“We really try to walk the talk of ‘natural living,’” says Rachel. “Owning the store is a natural evolution from many elements of health and wellness that we feel passionate about.”
While the Barrys plan to keep many elements of the store the same — including its name — they are working on new initiatives and ideas to offer even more. Examples include the addition of a deli, complete with wifi, in early 2021, as well as grab-and-go healthy food options.
The deli is in collaboration with Travis and Kaycee Vandelicht Barry, Jeff Barry’s brother and sister-in-law. Named VanDeli, it will feature fresh options designed after Kaycee’s experience working at Springfield restaurants, including the Aviary Cafe and Tea Bar & Bites.
The Barrys also have plans to expand the variety of organic produce that’s available at the store; grow their collaboration with local producers; offer consultations with Rachel, drawing on her knowledge as a dietitian, for health needs; and offer disease-specific educational opportunities and support groups, such as for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Barrys also plan to have a space available for meetings and other gatherings related to health, wellness and community benefit.
Hours will expand as of Jan. 11, when the store will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Jeff, Simon, Harriet and I are the proud and honored new owners of this wonderful space for the conscious consumer,” says Rachel, speaking of her husband and two young children. “We are so grateful for all our employees, family and community support.”
Want to visit?
For more information, connect with Jean’s Healthway on Facebook or call the store at 417-683-3026.