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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Ann Yates, 1948-2007

Ann Yates, a natural products retailer and health care pioneer, died Oct. 30. She was 59.

Ms. Yates opened Nature's Pantry, the largest natural products store in Knoxville, Tenn., 30 years ago. In 2002 she opened Well By Nature, Knoxville's first holistic wellness center that housed offices for massage therapists, acupuncturists, personal trainers, chiropractors and other natural health practitioners.

"Ann radiated a profound sense of love and generosity," said Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council. "A strongly spiritual person, she embodied the essence of what the natural products industry is really all about: the unconditional love and deep caring for her family, friends and members of her community. She was a beacon of light in Knoxville and Central Tennessee, pioneering good nutrition, natural-health awareness and spiritual growth for thousands of customers for over 25 years. Her magnetic personality drew people to her, and she developed a strong network of close friends and admirers throughout the natural products community— all of whom are mourning the hole that her passing has created in our lives."

"Ann was always warm, loving and positive," said Suzanne Shelton, president of the Shelton Group. "I remember when she handed over the SOHO presidency— she didn't give her successor a gavel, she handed him a magic wand. That was so Ann. She was extraordinarily capable, as evidenced by the businesses she built and the industry leadership she provided. She was brave, too. She went on this amazing, round-the-world, or nearly so, trip 10 years ago by herself. Her reflections on it were fascinating, thoughtful and inspiring. … I believe that everyone who knew Ann is better for it. I know I am."

"She was an angel among us, teaching, inspiring and mentoring," Cheryl Hughes, owner of the Whole Wheatery in Lancaster, Calif., said.

Ms. Yates is survived by her daughter, Meredith and son, Ben of Knoxville; her father, Harold Reeves of Springfield, Tenn.; and two nieces, Kelly Reeves of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Beth Chenoweth of Huntsville, Ala.

A celebration of life service was held Nov. 16 in Knoxville. Donations may be made to Heifer International.

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