LANGLEY — Juli An Panfilio considers herself to be a merchant for the Self.
“People who come in here get to take off their facade and be real,” she said. “They’re able to just be. That’s what makes this place really great.”
Panfilio, 48, is owner of Living Green Natural Food & Apothecary, an oasis of “nourishment” in a vintage building with a big white “Langley” painted on the wall at Second Street and De Bruyn Avenue, surrounded by storage lockers and a couple of metal sculptures at the top of the hill out of downtown.
“Simply and efficiently, I’m trying to make it nourishing visually, homeopathically, herbally and organically,” she said. “I need things around me that are pleasing and real.”
Panfilio bought the shop from Cheryl Zimmerman, who had operated it for about 12 years, and officially opened it as her own last month.
“This is what I was supposed to do all my life,” Panfilio said. “It was like it wasn’t an option. I was the perfect person. It was magic.”
Living Green features an apothecary stocked with vitamins, minerals, supplements, tinctures, salves, sprays, homeopathic items, aromatic candles and gifts with feel-good messages — “and lots of love.”
It carries natural, organic food items, in packages and in bulk, including nuts, fruit, honey, oils, vinegars, teas and “energy apples” made of oats, pumpkin seeds and almond butter.
Panfilio also offers protein powders for vegans, and a wide range of gluten-free products.
“All alternatives to sugar and bad oil,” she said. “It’s all about alternative eating.”
Living Green also carries homeopathic gift items made by island residents, and organic pet products. A display rack of messaged coffee mugs hangs on a wall under the sign “Peace.”
A few items are displayed on consignment.
The shop also features an all-organic, raw-food café and fair-trade coffee espresso bar, with tables and chairs for customers to rest their bodies as well as their souls.
The café features organic sandwiches, pastries, smoothies, coffee, herbal teas and fresh juices.
Panfilio said she hopes to expand soon to offer full Friday-night seafood dinners reserved by groups who want to come in and linger over an organic meal.
Next to the café is a lounging area with sofa, chairs and a case of books, a place where customers can sip fair-trade coffee or organic smoothies while reading, relaxing or surfing the Internet via the shop’s Wi-Fi connection.
Near the lounge area is Bapu Land, a funky room filled with toys, books, games and tiny furniture for children to experience while their parents are tending to their Selves.
And there’s a sound system, so local bands can come in and jam. She hopes to redo her back room into a place for classes, yoga, drumming circles, meditation — “whatever the community wants.”
Mellow photographs taken by Panfilio’s father hang from the walls throughout the shop.
She said that except for certain bulk foods, she bypasses distributors to get her merchandise directly from the source, to ensure quality and to be certain she gets the items that fit her philosophy.
“I know every single one of them,” she said of her suppliers. “We talk all the time.”
Panfilio grew up in Oregon, splitting her time between Portland and Eugene.
She had her daughter at age 18, and spent most of her early life raising her while working as a nurse. She has an 11-year-old granddaughter in Oregon.
She said she moved to Whidbey Island as an estate manager for a family, then stopped to smell the chakras in a big way.
“I had always held onto a job for money or whatever, or because it was easy,” Panfilio said. “I changed my life completely when
I came here.”
She said her only other experience owning a business was a small bookstore in Oregon. It eventually closed.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Panfilio said with a smile.
“I still don’t, but it seems to be working. Business has been amazing.”
She has two full-time and two part-time “coworkers.” “I’m nothing without them,” she said.
“We love her,” one said from behind the café counter.
Panfilio said her goal is to bring everyone within range together under her protective, nurturing aura.
“This isn’t my store,” she said. “I’m here for the community.”
Living Green is at 630 Second St. in Langley (phone 221-8242).