Bruce Mattson is working on his 43rd year bringing health food items to people in the Cariboo Chilcotin.
He purchased Sta-well Health Foods Store from Lily Campbell who started it.
“I grew up here in Williams Lake, moved away, and then for some reason the spirit moved me to borrow money from all my relatives, and I came back and bought the store,” Mattson said. “It’s been a joy ever since.”
Born in Langley, his family moved to Kamloops and then Williams Lake. His dad worked for Jacobson Brothers Sawmill. The owner Harold Jacobson was married to his father’s sister.
When asked if he was a health food advocate at the time of purchasing the store, he said no, but he was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist faith, which has a strong focus on health.
“I am no longer a member, but that was how we knew the owner and I tell you, it was a struggle at first in this beer-drinking town, but I still have customers from the early days and now I have their kids and their kids’ kids.”
The store has remained in the same location since its very beginning, although he moved next door and then cut a hole in the wall a few years ago to take over both sides.
In his career, he has noticed some big changes.
“Even up until 10 years ago, people came in with questions. Now rarely do they have questions because of the age of the internet. Everybody comes in with their wish list and we try to have what they want.”
His business reaches as far as Bella Coola.
For 20 years he’s advertised in Bella Coola, takes orders and goes down in October to deliver the food people have ordered.
Mattson was selling electric bikes through the store, which he has since stopped doing because he had too much on his plate.
Last fall, however, he took one to Bella Coola to see if anyone might be interested in purchasing one.
“There was some interest and instead of hauling it back up that muddy hill I left it with Kathy Moore at Moore’s Market.”’
It did not sell, but because he’d had a good year and been ‘blessed’ he told Moore to think of a creative way to use the bike as a donation for the valley.
It was raffled off which raised $2,800 for the local food bank.
The coronavirus pandemic has made the store busier than he could have ever dreamt up he said.
“My staff was so good, despite the fear, and stuck with it. We have been very busy. I was working a lot less before March for sure, but I’ve been on almost every day since.”
There are five people in total working at the store, including his 16-year-old daughter Natasha.
When he isn’t working he loves to fish with Natasha and stay at Nimpo Lake Resort. They have horses and Natasha is a barrell racer.
“The last few summers we’d go to Nimpo and she’d participate in the Anahim Lake Rodeo, which of course has been cancelled. I love it out there.”
About 16 years ago he quit, but before that was also the Evan Reuch Johnson Lund boat dealer in town.
“I ran this business here and had a little yard down below and sold fishing boats and that’s how I got to know all the good folks in the west. I made trips out there and sold them boats.”
As for the name of the store, the original owner tried to register it as Stay-well. When she learned the name was already taken so she dropped the ‘y.’
“It is a little confusing sometimes. People call us ‘sta – well’. They can call us what they like as long as they come and see us,” he added with a smile.
Up until a couple of years ago he was caring for his aging parents, Marvin and Sophia, who both passed away in their 90s.
Mattson said he loves his customers and has been blessed.
“Few stores are left as free-standing little stores in North America because of the pressure and competition from the big guys. I’m blessed because I live where I do and have customers in Bella Coola, the Chilcotin, Horsefly and Likely. Those folks are less apt to buy online because they like the interaction.”
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