Watsons sell family health food market and restaurant in downtown Visalia

After 70 years, Watson’s Health Foods will not be owned by the Watson family but the name will carry on under new ownership

VISALIA – For the first time in its 70-year history, Watson’s will not be owned by the Watsons.

Tim and Kim Watson have sold their downtown Visalia landmark health food store and restaurant to the Cantu family who operate the metaphysical store Ziaya’s in Visalia. 

“Kim and I decided it was time to slow down,” and perhaps do some European travel, the owner said after 30 years of running the family business.

Tim said not much will change under the new ownership with staff, the store and the menu at Waston’s all staying familiar. The shop’s hidden backyard garden is a favorite lunch spot to have a quiet, healthy meal in downtown. Tim said the transition to the new owners is already underway.

Watson’s Health Foods was started on Willis Street in Visalia in the summer of 1957 by Lionel and Juanita Watson, local pioneers of health who were way ahead of their time. Lionel sold the business to his twin brother Louis Watson and grandson Gordon, Tim’s father, in 1972 while Juanita continued to work in the store. 

Tim and his wife Kim moved to Visalia in 1992 to operate the family business. They moved the health foods store around the corner to Main Street and added Watson’s Veggie Garden restaurant to the operation in 1994. The Veggie Garden provides a wide selection of items from sandwiches on organic whole grain or sprouted grain breads to homemade soups and fresh made burritos and wraps. 

The store expanded again in 2001 with the addition of Watson’s Eat Well Market, an homage to his grandfather’s original Watson’s Eat Well Market in Glendale, Calif. in the 1930s. The market offers organic and whole grain cereals, breads, pastas, grains, flours, cookies and crackers as well as a large variety of gluten free items and raw milk, goat milk and local honey. 

Watson’s is located at 617 W. Main. Ziayas’ Meditation Center, Boutique Store and Gift Shop is at  801 E. Main St.  

Fugazzis plans upstairs restaurant

Italian restaurant favorite Fugazzis has posted a liquor license for 217 W. Main St. in the former Quality Jewelers building being remodeled for multi-tenant and multi-story use. The sit-down bistro will be located on the second floor. Owner Mike Fligor was not available for comment but sources say he will keep the existing location at Main and Locust streets.

Little Italy to reopen this fall

If Italian food is your thing, here’s more good news. Popular Italian restaurant Little Italy has received  a permit to remodel parts of the Main Street eatery across from the Visalia Fox Theater. Owner Joe Vaccaro expects to open this fall after months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nash’s Steakhouse opening downtown

Visalians salivating for a locally owned steakhouse won’t have to wait any longer. Nash’s Bar and Grill is opening at 229 E. Main St. next to Duckies in downtown Visalia this week. The restaurant takes the place of the former Tandoori House eatery. For more information, call (559) 636-1800.

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