Manitou Springs takes another crack at an organic grocery store

News  /  Manitou

Sheila-Esther is formulating her plan for bringing organic food to Manitou. [Photo by Rhonda Van Pelt]

Manitou Springs may be thought of as the Pikes Peak region’s epicenter of granola-eating crystal huggers, but the city lacks an organic grocery store. Two previous efforts were made in the recent past but, for various reasons, didn’t last.

Along comes a woman who calls herself Sheila-Esther, who has embarked on a quest to establish a holistic store in Manitou.

Right now, residents who don’t work their own gardens or greenhouses have to find organic food among the offerings at conventional chain grocery stores or drive almost 3 miles to Mountain Mama on West Uintah Street.

“I have a belief that you should be as minimal as possible with the ingredients in your food,” Sheila-Esther says.

And she’s living proof of the benefits of seeking out clean ingredients.

Informational meeting, 4:44-6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1

Persephone Grae’s Café & Juice Bar, lower level of the Barker House, 819 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, More information, 719-582-4432,

Sheila-Esther, now 42, was close to earning a degree in food science and human nutrition from Naropa University in Boulder when COVID-19 shut everything down. Then she was diagnosed with brain cancer — the same disease that killed her father.

She was already leading a fairly organic life, but she redoubled her efforts. Sheila-Esther knew she didn’t want to take the “death pills” conventional doctors were offering and says she’d rather go to the grave than undergo chemotherapy.

“My consciousness was saying no,” she recalls. “My body knows what it wants.”

Sheila-Esther started a rigorous program with a naturopath, connected with a massage therapist and began therapeutic juicing and vitamin C protocols. She also decided it was past time to let go of the anger she carried from childhood trauma.

On Oct. 31, 2022, she was declared cancer free. The next day was the anniversary of her father’s death.

“At moments I really fought for my life,” she says. “And it was really, really hard sometimes, and I lost a lot of weight.”

Sheila-Esther credits her survival to her determination to sweep toxins out of her life. She has Lakota blood, which she says explains her interest in natural remedies.

“I vowed that I was going to find an answer,” she says. “If you go in my house now, you won’t find a product in there that has any bit of toxins in them that you can’t pronounce.”

She’s looking at three providers to supply organic meat and produce for the store she’s planning, and intends to have a box truck she or someone else can drive to those locations to pick up food, eliminating the middleman.

“I want to make it as close to ‘farm-to-table’ as I can,” she says.

Sheila-Esther also hopes to offer ecologically responsible cleaning products, possibly collaborating with Annie Schmitt and Neale and Kathy Minch, who are supplying cleaning products to locals through a selection housed in the Manitou Art Center.

She dreams of selling packaged goods that don’t come with ingredient lists full of chemical names. She dreams of hosting classes, live music and other events.

But she’s backing up her vision with solid research. She’s exploring Manitou’s real estate picture with the help of Realtors and has her eye on five possible locations; they’ll have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

She’s studying traffic pattern information from the Colorado Department of Transportation and researching Manitou’s demographics so she can tailor her offerings to locals’ needs.

She’s networking with other holistic practitioners and organics business people, including Marisa Madge of Wildflower’s Botanical Menagerie. She’s compiled a list of staffing needs and is seeking grants to help fund the venture.

Even though Sheila-Esther moved here just last August, she’s visited Manitou over the years and has a strong connection to the city. In the 1870s, Theodore Pine, the brother of an ancestor, built what’s now the Barker House, where she lives.

Sheila-Esther hosted a meet-and-greet for the community Jan. 11 at Persephone Grae’s Café & Juice Bar. The crowd included chef Lyn Ettinger-Harwell and Steven Miller, founder of the Manitou Music Foundation. Schmitt also attended; she and her husband, Doug Edmundson, own the property that includes Flying Pig Farm, a single-acre “urban educational facility.” And Schmitt is on the board of directors of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, which is interested in the venture.

It would seem that Manitou has been waiting for someone to come along and start the ball rolling on founding a sustainable holistic store. And it would seem that Sheila-Esther is the person to do that.

“I made an agreement with God that, if I got through this,” she says, “that I would use my voice and I would try to bring this out
to people.”

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