Lucia Schnitzer of Luci's Healthy Marketplace

Written by Geri Koeppel Category: People Issue: September 2012
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The philosophy behind everything in Luci’s Healthy Marketplace is retro, from the décor to the all-natural “real” foods on the grocery shelves, in the grab-and-go food section and at the café.

It’s all about “what it was to be American back in the ’30s and ’40s,” says Schnitzer, who owns Luci’s with husband Ken. “That meant local businesses…. Everything was organic and fresh.”

Luci’s caters to kosher, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diets, but that doesn’t mean her menu is loaded with grass and twigs. For Schnitzer, “healthy” means a balance of organic foods along with the occasional treat. Because you only live once, right?

She knows this all too well: She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34, when her daughter, Aviva, now 5, was only 6 months old (her family includes sons Benzi, 2, and 1-year-old Gavi). She changed her eating habits immediately, and the idea for Luci’s grew out of the family’s passion to bring better products to the community.

“Invest in your health today,” Schnitzer says. “Don’t think, ‘I have an insurance plan; I’ll pay a doctor later.’”

How has changing your diet affected how you feel?
I feel more energetic. My brain isn’t foggy. My skin is the best it’s ever been. Everything works – there’s some harmony going on in my body.

How is your health these days?
Five years with no [recurrence]. I just celebrated May 26. It’s scary… but the further I am away from it, the more confident I am I’m doing the right thing for my body. Not only my body but my mind and my attitude. Attitude is huge.

The fire at neighboring Richardson’s in 2009 also damaged your store, which had been open just three months. How did you get through that?
Seeing our place burn down was pretty devastating, but it was my experience with fighting cancer that I felt got us past that and gave us the strength to rebuild. And it gave us an opportunity to change the things that needed to be changed. We got to do a “do-over.” I felt it was a blessing in disguise. We saw the opportunity rather than leaning on the devastation of it all.

Tell me about the Sunday cooking classes at Luci’s that focus on eating more healthfully.
There are a lot of allergies now – people being diagnosed with celiac disease or allergies to gluten; people who can’t eat dairy or eggs or sugar…. We’ve got some great instructors who have written a book or have the same challenges. [They] give them the confidence they need to cook a meal that’s tasty and is also good for them. Knowledge is power. You can still have your bag of chips. You can still have your soda. You can still have the things you love, but with a better ingredient panel. We’re giving people their control back and giving them healthier choices.

Lucia Schnitzer
Owner, Luci’s Healthy Marketplace
1590 E. Bethany Home Road, Phoenix