Lucy Pinero Ramos – Signature

With a mere glance at her first customers on a January morning, Lucy Ramos knows what they need: tapioca bread, soft tofu and a soy beverage. Ramos can’t remember how long the couple has been coming here—since before 2000—but she knows their special needs by heart, and that the wife is allergic to dairy and gluten.

More than 17 years ago, long before Betty Crocker boasted gluten-free products or Whole Foods Market came to town, Ramos began her quest to help those who needed to avoid foods or ingredients like gluten, casein and yeast. From what was then Living Foods II on Highland Road, she called companies to question them about their ingredients, ordered from producers in Canada and Italy, attended Celiacs of Baton Rouge meetings and listened to requests from customers and parents.

Age: 52

Occupation: Owner of Lucy’s Health Foods

Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela

Ramos, whose store is now on Bluebonnet Boulevard, believes everyone should be able to eat pancakes, bread and cookies without risking an ambulance ride. She knew this from her customers and from her own son, who has struggled with allergies to dairy, eggs, shrimp, soy, strawberries and wheat. “We’ve had to bring him to the hospital because he bit into and spit out something with mayo that wasn’t the mayo we have at home,” she says. “Even with that little amount, we had to go to the ER.”

So, Ramos fights for her customers, studying some foods more closely even than the FDA.

“You have to start looking with a magnifying glass,” Ramos says. Attention to labels, constant phone calls and history with the product lines keep Ramos aware of what’s inside the products at her store.

When she moved to Baton Rouge from Caracas in 1990 with her husband and daughter, Ramos didn’t envision doing this. At the time, she thought she might pursue medical school. “I’ve always wanted to help people. I guess I was born to be helping people in a different way.”

Check out her new store at 9880 Bluebonnet Blvd. or at lucyshealthfoods.com.