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February 9, 2015 Faces of Business

Bloomfield shop finds longevity in health food

PHOTO | Steve Laschever Lim's Health Food's owner Robert Clark says offering more specialized products and personal attention to customers has helped his Bloomfield shop fend off much larger competitors over the years.
PHOTO | Steve Laschever Robert Clark gleefully poses with store managers Anny McEwen (middle) and Taylor Lewis (right).
Stan Simpson

The best example of Lim's Health Food store's longevity is not that the business is closing in on its fourth decade of operation.

Owner Robert Clark said the most compelling testimony the Bloomfield enterprise can provide is the longevity and vibrancy of its founder — his mother, Lucia Lim Rees. Now 82, the Korean immigrant opened the Cottage Grove Road store in 1978, while working multiple jobs seven days a week as a nursing home dietician.

Lim Rees still works twice a week at the shop that bear's her family name. She is a competitive dancer, regularly attends the opera and symphonies — and is not on medication of any kind.

“She's the best advertisement for the store,'' said Clark, 46. He bought the business from his mother in 1998, having managed the store the previous five years. “Just the way she lives. Balanced diet. Moderation. She tries to eat healthy, naturally. She has always kept really busy and very active in her social and personal life.''

Lim Rees juggled raising three children while working at least three jobs. She was strict as far as what her children could eat, introduced the family to the benefits of herbs, roots and supplements — and always espoused keeping a positive mental attitude. “She always saw the good side of things and never let negative things derail her,'' Clark said.

Her can-do personality was critical, he said, to sustaining the business. It struggled to turn a profit in the first 10 years. Clark's grandmother, Mung Sook Lee, was the face of the store during the early days. Communication was difficult because she spoke very little English. Business started to stabilize once Clark, born in Hartford, was able to spend more time at the shop and help his mother in the mid-1990s.

Today, the customer base for the 400-square-foot store is steady, eclectic and reliable. Lim's Health Food, with its four employees, is believed to be the oldest business in the Copaco Shopping Center, the iconic plaza that is one of Bloomfield's signature business attractions.

“We have such a loyal clientele here,” Clark said. “People have been coming here for years; and now their kids are coming here. A bunch of the people who come in, I know by first name. We've carved out a nice niche. With Whole Foods and others opening up, we've been able to maintain by specializing in things [customers] may not find in Whole Foods. You also get personal attention here. I think that's why we've survived.”

Clark points to the shop's special section, featuring a plethora of herbs, as something that distinguishes it from the competition. On display are 250 packaged baggies of loose herbs and medicinal teas, selling for about $3 a bag. Supplements can range from $13 on up.

The customers who use the herbs, spices, oils and supplements as part of their lifestyle are adamant about its benefits, Clark said. Immigrants, those from Asia, the West Indies and Europe, are regular customers. They have grown up knowing the benefits of non-traditional alternatives to medicine and good health. Vegetarians and others avid about health also stop in. But the biggest segment of his customer base may come as a surprise. “The No. 1 occupation of people who come here are people who work in the medical industry — nurses, by far,” Clark said. “They see how people can respond to medications and go downhill very quickly. And they don't want to do that.''

While aware of those leery about the medicinal benefits of exotic herbs, roots, spices and supplements, Clark said he does very little advertising.

“A lot of our success comes from word of mouth,'' he said. “People come here. They've had success with something; they then tell someone who had the same problem to go to Lims, they'll help you out there. That's sort of perpetuated us staying in business.”

The feedback from certain supplements has been undeniable, he says. Red Yeast Rice is highly regarded as a natural alternative to reducing cholesterol. Some doctors, Clark said, are switching their clients off cholesterol drugs in favor of Red Yeast Rice.

Ginger root is known for its ability to cure nausea and stomach ailment. Garlic has had success in reducing blood pressure; turmeric in reducing inflammation. Ginko leaf is pitched as an alternative to increase more blood oxygen to the brain and improve memory. Probiotics have received good customer reviews for combating digestive issues. Another item that generates interest is a product with the provocative name “Horny Goat Weed.” The ancient Asian supplement has the reputation of — you guessed it — enhancing virility.

What makes Clark's day are the testimonies he hears from customers who have been healed from ailments that include high cholesterol, inflammation, digestion problems and high blood pressure.

He recalls a visit from a gentleman several years ago. Doctors, Clark said, had given the man's wife, who had a brain tumor, less than a year to live. One of the supplements she started taking was Essiac, a Native American herb known for its ability to detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system.

Years later, after that first visit, the gentleman returned simply to shake Clark's hand. “In taking the stuff here, she had eight good years, and they were quality years,'' Clark said. “He thanked me for the help we gave him.”

Stan Simpson is host of “The Stan Simpson Show”, which airs Saturday, 5:30 a.m., on Fox CT and online at You can send suggestions for the “Faces in Business” column to

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