By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times
Jacquie Fazekas knows the importance of healthy living from both a personal and a professional standpoint. After 30 years as an executive in retail, she became a leadership and executive health coach, as well as a motivational speaker and writer. She also has had three near-death experiences—the most recent being at the age of 41, when she went into cardiac arrest and had a seizure.
“Over the years, I’ve also had asthma, … severe weight issues, indigestion,” she said. “You name it, I’ve had it.”
After her seizure, Fazekas learned about herbs, natural ways of living, and changing her diet.
“As I was doing that—listening to my own body, … doing the right things for my body—all of my symptoms started fading away,” she said. “I don’t really have asthma [anymore] and I’m at the lowest weight I’ve ever been because I focused on doing well for myself, feeling well.”
Fazekas is now an advocate for living a better life, and she wants to share that mindset with people in Birmingham. In November 2018, she acquired the sole health-food store in the Five Points West area and rebranded it Bama Health Foods.
“We need to revitalize the west side. We need to revitalize families,” she said. “There are a lot of us talking about Birmingham and its families. We need to revitalize and nourish our kids.”
Bama Health Foods plans to nurture the community via five pillars: supplements and herbs; nourishing food; education; employment; and community activism.
Fazekas felt her ownership of the store was always meant to be. She took her first trip to Birmingham three years ago, when she brought her son to school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she spent the weekend roaming the streets and visiting historic sites.
“It was a powerful weekend, where I began to feel my pull to Birmingham,” recalled Fazekas, who is Canadian by birth but has lived and traveled all over the world, according to a REV Birmingham article. “Every time I came to visit, it grew stronger until I could no longer dismiss it.”
Part of her trek brought her through the doors of Health Foods West, where she met store manager Steven “Trooper” Cox, the grandson of the original owners. The store was set to close in November 2018, but Cox said something told him to, “Stand firm”—and that’s when Fazekas walked through the doors.
Cox had been praying that someone would come along who was interested in keeping the store going, and he felt there was something significant about Fazekas’s visit.
Fazekas said, “I call it a God thing because I had had visions many months earlier about having a community center where I could pour in people, do my coaching and everything. I never imagined it would be a health-food store, but, you know, God always dreams bigger than us. … At that moment, Trooper knew the community, and he had been praying that someone would come along and keep the store going.”
Cox said, “I even told her, I was like, ‘Welcome home.’”
Before Fazekas or Cox came along, the store was a pharmacy, a place of healing for 70 years.
“There is a spiritual element to this store that’s way bigger than us,” Fazekas said. “We just happened to be honored and listened to our calling of, ‘We’re next. We’re the next group to continue to serve the community.’ We recognize it as, … ‘This isn’t a store; this is the mission for us to continue to nourish lives.’ … We’re very in tune with and aligned with God’s mission for both of us because it’s certainly nothing either of us ever imagined.”
Fazekas said God sent everything to her and things became clear: the name, colors, slogan, and future plans all came with the visions she was given.
“He just works through me … in lots of different ways,” she said.
Among the plans for the store are providing fresh fruits and vegetables; teaching classes on nutrition and leadership; offering internships; working with schools; and partnering with chefs, practitioners, and people around Birmingham.
“We’re going to stabilize the store and get that rolling along,” Fazekas said. “But if … God has His way, He’s got me out in the community; He’s got Bama Health Foods . . . volunteering all over the community, doing good things in the community and who knows where. He keeps surprising me. [It has been] only four months.”
Fazekas wants the store to give access “to both customers and practitioners to be able to learn differently.”
Cox, who still provides support for the business as the assistant manager, also sees what the store can mean to the community: “We are going to be that place where people can come, no matter what, … to have the ability to reach out to those that can help them. … I see life. I see light.”
Bama Health Foods is located at 1923 Bessemer Rd., Birmingham, AL 35208; hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information about the store, visit www.bamahealthfoods.com. To learn more about Fazekas, visit jacquiefazekas.com or follow her on Instagram @jaquifazequas.
REV Birmingham (revbirmingham.org) contributed to this article.
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