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Oldsmar couple hopes location provides healthy start for store

Published Sep. 29, 2005

Nature's Health Food Market plans a November opening on Sheldon Road near the Citrus Park Town Center.

Dan Chiarito figures he knows a good deal when he sees one. So when he saw the old Latina Bodega convenience store on Sheldon Road deserted and boarded up, he wasted no time making an offer.

"It looked like a gold mine," said Chiarito, climbing down from a ladder where he was making renovations on the old building at 11601 Sheldon Road.

Chiarito, 48, and his wife, Christine, 42, along with her mother, Nancy Bivona, plan to refurbish the 2,400-square-foot building and open a health food store.

"We want to be a step above an average health food store," Christine Chiarito said. "We're not large so we'll have to be personalized to keep people coming back."

Getting people to come in the first time, though, should be no problem. That stretch of roadway, from Linebaugh Avenue to Citrus Park Drive, is undergoing a building boom, due in part to the recently opened Citrus Park Town Center. The mall has helped attract scores of apartments and other businesses to the area.

Consequently, owners of the few commercially zoned properties along that stretch of Sheldon are getting lots of attention. Chiarito said he has received three offers to sell and one to rent the former convenience store since he closed on the deal three weeks ago.

"I didn't ask what they were offering," Chiarito said. "It's not for sale."

That's because the planned store represents more than just a business opportunity to Christine Chiarito.

"I've been living this kind of life for 25 years," she said. "I believe in whole natural healing, remedies and cures."

The Chiaritos, who live in Oldsmar and own Luppe's Italian Restaurant on Tampa Road in Palm Harbor, hope to carve a niche in the growing health food industry by offering a full service store.

Nature's Health Food Market, set to open in November, will include organically grown produce, vitamins and herbs, as well as an organic juice bar and deli.

Christine Chiarito said the store also will special-order the hard-to-find items such as herbs and minerals touted as remedies for everything from diabetes to arthritis.

And if zoning allows, Christine Chiarito said, she wants to add a second story to the building and offer classes in meditation, tai chi and yoga.

"People feel attached to where they buy their groceries," Christine Chiarito said. "We hope to be the little neighborhood type store that you can count on, just all natural and organic."