Cover StoriesFeature Stories

Vermont Maturity Cover Story – Healthy Living Market & Cafe

All In the Family: Healthy Living Embraces Relatives, Community Alike

In 1986, Katy Lesser opened a small store called Healthy Living in South Burlington’s Blue Mall. More than thirty years later, that store has grown exponentially and spawned other locations in Williston and Saratoga Springs, New York.

Since its inception, Healthy Living has been on a mission to offer shoppers the best products while supporting the local farms, producers, and economy.

While opening a store — or three — wasn’t Lesser’s initial plan for her career (she was an English teacher and a psychotherapist before becoming an entrepreneur), she has never wavered on her values.

Lesser started the market because she wanted her family to have access to healthy, unprocessed food and found limited options available.

Katy Lesser

“I had absolutely no knowledge of business,” she said, “but I also had memories of the food markets I knew growing up.”

Lesser remembered those markets as community meeting places where neighbors ran into each other in the aisles.

“They seemed like much happier places to shop than the sterile, harshly lit supermarkets I visited each week,” she said, “so why not own a tiny food market that was dedicated to exactly the kind of foods and experience I was searching for?”

She said she quickly learned that there was much more to running Healthy Living than food — the people, be they customers or staff, set the business apart from the average grocery shop.

As for its products, Healthy Living holds them to very high – and self-imposed – standards. The food it carries has no added hormones, antibiotics, artificial or trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, bleached or bromated flour, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

In 2022, Healthy Living became one of the first retailers to sign on to the Northeast Organic Family Partnership, encouraging shoppers to purchase at least one-quarter of their weekly dairy items from participating brands.

Lesser said the relationships she has nurtured with her guests and staff “has been really the greatest thing for me.”

Healthy Living has grown from being overseen by Lesser and one other staff person to employing more than 300 community members. From the days when she did everything herself — from unloading trucks, to stocking shelves, to running the register, and more — she said she now has talented staff, “doing a much better job than I ever could.”

Along the way, Healthy Living has pocketed its share of awards including the Small Business Association’s Small Business Person of the Year, the University of Vermont Grossman School of Business Multi-Generation Enterprise Award, and the Deane Davis Business of the Year Award.

The business gives back, donating to local food shelves, community centers and non-profits. It also takes part in food, diaper, and winter clothing drives. It matches staff’s charitable contributions to non-profit organizations and compensates them for the volunteer time they give to the charities of their choice.

Passing the Torch

Lesser’s two children, Eli and Nina Lesser-Goldsmith, serve as CEO and COO of Healthy Living.

Eli, Katy and Nina.

“They both grew up in the business,” Lesser said. “They went away to college, and I never imagined in a million years that they would come back and work with me. The best thing I ever learned about running my business is to hire people smarter than I am, and they are both way smarter than I am! They are taking our company to the next level and beyond.”

Almost three decades after opening her first store, Lesser is thrilled with how her business has grown while still retaining its core values.

“I’m all about staying healthy and strong as I age,” Lesser said, “and the food I put in my body is a big part of that plan. There’s a lot to learn about food, changing your diet, supplements and more. We’re here to take the confusion out of it.” 

Her staff is knowledgeable and experienced and dedicated to serving the community. Lesser’s passion for hospitality makes training new staff a rewarding experience and brings together the pillars Healthy Living has stood on for three decades — food and people.  

“I still love the everyday routines, the customer interactions, the new product excitement, the seasonal changes, and the learning process,” she said. “All I’ve learned over the years about running a business translates to taking care of people and delivering exceptional hospitality which is, I believe, a good way to live.”

For more information on Healthy Living visit

Store Locations

222 Dorset St., South Burlington, VT, 05403
129 Market St., Williston, VT, 05495
3065 NY-50, Saratoga Springs, NY, 12866

Free Subscription to Vermont Maturity Magazine

Comment here