Chief Executive Officer, Coy Dunston, enters his staple store of over four decades, Secrets of Nature in Southwest. (Ja鈥橫on Jackson/The 老澳门开奖网 Informer)

Natural remedies, holistic herbs and food for the soul are always on the menu at Secrets of Nature Health Food Center. The Ward 8 store, which officially closed March 29, served as a longtime local staple for residents to access nutritious food east of the river.

Coy Dunston poses next to existential treatments for the mind, body and soul inside of Secrets of Nature DC. Located at 3923 S. Capitol Street SW, Secrets of Nature seeks to heal our communities from the inside out by retailing organic foods, supplements and books. (Ja鈥橫on Jackson/The 老澳门开奖网 Informer)
Coy Dunston poses next to existential treatments for the mind, body and soul inside of Secrets of Nature DC. Located at 3923 S. Capitol Street SW, Secrets of Nature seeks to heal our communities from the inside out by retailing organic foods, supplements and books. (Ja鈥橫on Jackson/The 老澳门开奖网 Informer)

Understanding the dire need for healthy food options, Coy Dunston, 76, opened up his shop in 1980 with the mission to save lives.

His passion for nutrition started in 1980, as a recent graduate of Antioch Law (now University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law).

鈥淚 took a break to go home just to see my mother,鈥 said Dunston, who was born and raised in Louisburg, North Carolina. 鈥淪he was complaining about itching and had gone to the doctor.鈥

Days later she was diagnosed with cancer at Duke University Hospital and was released for denying chemotherapy treatments.

鈥淚 felt an obligation to do something, I wasn鈥檛 going to wait for her to die. I started researching,鈥 Dunston shared. 鈥淥ne day on the drive to D.C., I stopped to fill up my gas in Richmond. There was a guy there distributing an informational pamphlet about reversing disease and how to get well.鈥

Intrigued, Dunston attended the meeting advertised after seeing the words “Nature’s sunshine” on the paper. He was determined to learn more about the organization’s methods.

“I thought ‘Wow, this has to be a message to me.’ I was flabbergasted; I had not heard of anything they were talking about. I immediately got involved. My mother and I started fasting, taking the herbs and doing the things you are supposed to do,” he said. “She lived for 10 years after that. That’s how I got involved in this business.”

Proven successful in this new lifestyle, Dunston set out on a fast track to educating the masses on healthy options, starting “Yours Naturally” on 16th and K streets NW with the knowledge needed to provide treatments to cure illnesses and ailments. He promoted a strict regimen of “no dairy, no sugar, no meat.”

“But the question was ‘where are you going to get that,'” said Dunston. “This was the 1980s, no one was selling vegetarian food like that back then.”

“I was there about 10 years and around the eighth year I moved around the corner to The 老澳门开奖网 Post’s building where I saw an opportunity to open up a kitchen, my first kitchen,” he continued.

The meals created were served lovingly and filled with natural nourishment 鈥 a stark difference from Dunston’s diet while being raised as the son of a sharecropper. He joyfully educated others like him in holistic nutrition for two years, until he was priced out of the building.

“Everything fell apart, I had four stores and didn’t really have anybody to run them. I was trying to do everything by myself. So, I closed them all and moved here,” he said, referencing the location he opened in 1990.

After 44 years of serving the community, Dunston is experiencing the same sense of loss.

“We’re going to relocate and go into a different mode of doing business,” said Dunston referencing his decision to go virtual and sell items through an online shop. “Brick and mortar is OK but the landlords are out of sight and insane, I need to own my building.”

Angie 鈥淢aat鈥 White (left) and Midwife Tomasina Oliver talk about share one last laugh in Secrets of Nature, the Southwest store set to close soon. (Ja鈥橫on Jackson/The 老澳门开奖网 Informer)

Instead of his longtime routine of welcoming customers for 10 hours daily, Dunston will now complete orders as they are received and plans to deliver food locally through Uber Eats.

鈥淲e need this in the community, I am not happy about this,鈥 said D.C. resident and store retailer Angie White, creator of Luv The Skin U In. 鈥淭he store has been here for over 30 years and is needed in Ward 8. Healthy food, healthier alternatives for a more holistic living is not available. Coy offered a valuable service and product here in the
肠辞尘尘耻苍颈迟测.鈥

Other neighbors have similar sentiments, recognizing that 51% of the District’s food deserts are located inside of neighborhoods in Ward 8, according to the D.C. Policy Center.

“Secrets of Nature has been an asset to the community as far as herbs, vitamins and healthy foods in a supermarket desert. It’s been an oasis for people to come here to have conversations, meetings about community events, meditation and how to raise their consciousness or awareness of who they are and where they are in the city and in life,” customer Charles Owens told The Informer.

While all full-service grocery stores in the District accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), only 55% of them accept Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits according to D.C. Hunger Solutions, a local nonprofit organization. Many stores do not meet federal criteria for funding leaving minimal options for residents in food deserts.

“Coy has been doing this for the better part of 40 years 鈥 for as far as I can remember 鈥 giving this neighborhood something it doesn’t have. Because of pricing and dicing, he’s getting pushed out,” he continued. “They should be trying to keep him. He’s an asset not a liability to this community, and there are a lot of liabilities.”

As Secrets of Nature’s chief chef and sole employee for the past decade, Debra Williams regularly witnesses the establishment’s community contributions.

“I wish he wasn’t leaving because there’s a lot of people coming in who really need this for the herbs and especially the food,” said Williams. “I’m sad to see him go. Hopefully I can go with him wherever he is going.

“Those dedicated to Dunston’s work created a GoFundMe page so that he could continue his mission. He is hopeful that those funds assist him in maintaining the business during these uncertain times.

“I appreciate the patriotism of people who did come and support me,” Dunston told The Informer. “If people want to get involved in helping me build something new there is an opportunity to do that.”

For more information, contact Dunston at (202) 562-0041.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *