Find Your Passion
Everyone needs an escape, now more than ever. Here's how five Coloradans found their passions—and how you can find yours.
Monique Merrill, 39
By Kelly Bastone
Monique Merrill used to be just like everyone else when it came to food—she ate what she wanted and rarely read a label—until she happened upon a health-food store in Breckenridge called Amazing Grace in the late '90s. The store spoke to her, mostly because the grocery reminded her of how she ate as a child. "I grew up overseas in places like Africa, Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines," says Merrill. "You literally ate out of the backyard. So finding this place that had locally produced, all-natural foods grabbed me." The place so appealed to her that she began working there, taking food rather than a paycheck. After years of working the aisles at Amazing Grace, Merrill purchased the store in 2001.
The Appeal Beyond the simple health benefits of owning Amazing Grace, Merrill says she loves that she's part of Breckenridge's small business community. "Although I sort of fell into this, I like giving something back to my community, giving the town a gathering place and the opportunity to eat healthful meals," she says. Since Merrill purchased the store, she has changed the format from straightforward grocery to grocery/restaurant, where she serves healthy breakfasts, lunches, and veggie and vegan dinners on Saturday nights.
The Commitment "I didn't know much about natural and organic foods and herbal supplements when I started working here," she says. "Someone would come in asking for devil's claw root and I'd say, 'What's that?' " Now, Merrill can clarify the different degrees of organic foods as well as give an in-depth explanation about how the shaky economy is affecting the products she stocks. More than anything, though, Merrill loves running Amazing Grace because she wants people to know they can eat well, that healthy food can taste good, and that buying quality products can be done affordably.
Do It Yourself Merrill suggests shopping as much as possible at Denver's farmers' markets. You can also subscribe to Door to Door Organics, a local company serving Denver and Boulder, for weekly organic produce deliveries.
For a hands-on experience with Earth-friendly eating, take a class at Evergreen's VeganCooks, which teaches techniques for vegan cooking.