“It’s a common theme in my life, to live a healthier way of life.” That perspective opened many doors for Mimi Chatwood, whose love of mountain towns and nature bolstered her joie de vivre.
Mimi and her younger sister grew up in the Yellowstone Valley of Billings, Montana, raised by a pit crew of extended family that included her hard-working single mom, an uncle and her grandparents. It was her grandfather, an orphan raised on the Crow Indian Reservation, who taught her a basic respect for all life.
“He grew up in the Pryor Mountains, which is a very mystical place,” Mimi says. Her grandparents had a profound influence on her that still resonates in her daily life.
The summers of her youth were spent outdoors around animals and nature at her grandparents’ cabin in Red Lodge, about 45 miles outside of Billings at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It was just a very small mountain community that would later influence Mimi to move to Crested Butte.
Right out of high school, Mimi thought she wanted to be a veterinarian and went to work as an assistant in an animal clinic. She piecemealed college and courses together, beginning with Eastern Montana College in Billings, then on to Carroll College in Helena, some online courses, and finally Patten College in northern California. “I was just all over the place,” she laughs. “Every place I went I took courses that I was interested in and I spent 20 years gathering college courses. When I first graduated from high school, I was going to be a vet, so I took biology, zoology, anatomy, physiology.”
But somewhere in the course of needing more money, Mimi claims she was sucked into that vortex known as a newspaper job and what started out as part-time wound up being 12 years of production room chaos.
“I ran all the circulation pressroom production and had 270 people under my supervision,” she says of the impressive Billings Gazette and admits that she did indeed love it, “…until I didn’t,” she chuckles. “It was all about the bottom line for the paper and I was good at making the enterprise a lot of money.”
What turned her around was a sudden realization that trying to get anything done with a management team of stuffy old men was, as she says, “Like pulling teeth,” and because of that frustration combined with her reluctance to make personnel decisions that rendered people into faceless numbers, she decided she couldn’t live with it anymore and so—she got out.
There’s a certain connection between the newspaper industry and massive amounts of caffeine, to be sure, so it does make sense that Mimi went from the newsroom to opening a coffee shop/bakery—the first organic shop in Helena and first organic coffee available in most of the state.
“That was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work,” she says and looks back at the endeavor, now noting, “I was up at 1 a.m. every day for seven years, and then I had an awakening. I had some significant health issues. I was on a morphine drip every four to six weeks in the emergency room with incredible pain that was undiagnosed. The last ER doc who saw me said the next step was exploratory surgery and that’s when all the bells and alarms went off that said it was time to do something differently.”
She recalled a little old lady, one of her regular customers, who would come in every day for a blueberry bagel and urge Mimi to see her chiropractor. “I went and saw her chiropractor,” Mimi smiles, shrugs matter-of-factly, and adds, “I never had the pain ever again. It changed my life.”
She was transformed but it went even further, “I had a cat that was ebbing away. He was on his deathbed when this same chiropractor came up to adjust him while I discreetly rolled my eyes, but five minutes later that cat [which she was spoon feeding] was eating on his own for the first time in five months.”
Mimi was astounded, and convinced, “It’s all about the neurological… free the nerves, cord and brain and life shows up the way it’s supposed to.” And that’s when she decided to sell the bakery, the building, her house, the whole shebang and just like Jed Clampett she headed to California, for chiropractic studies.
Mimi did an accelerated program because she smirks, “I was old!” Chiropractic school took a little over three years, “I loved it. I still love it. It just clicked and there was no question about it because I had lived it and I had experienced the difference.”
Although she had a groovy little beach shack on the ocean for those three years, Mimi knew her heart was in the mountains and she was just not a California girl.
She bought a practice in Durango, with a nine-month side trip to Boulder where she practiced in another clinic until the Durango deal was completed. Six years later, still living in Durango, she was happily surprised with an unexpected earth angel, her daughter, Sophia, who arrived more than a week early during a chiropractic seminar Mimi was helping to facilitate on Copper Mountain.
Mimi surmised, “My practice was really rocking and busy, and I realized I needed to sell it and get Sophia someplace she could run wild—and that was Crested Butte.”
Mimi had discovered Crested Butte on a motorcycle trip, riding in from Durango with Sophia’s father. “I fell in love with it and we were only here one night but it always stuck. We actually went to every town that was a possibility in Colorado and rated it from 1 to 10 on how it felt. That was the only criteria: How did it feel? I wanted it to have a health food store, a movie theatre and a hot spring, but the important thing was how it felt. Crested Butte felt fabulous! It was beautiful, pristine, and I knew it was the place my daughter could grow up uninhibited by fear or imposition of the world’s negativity that is so prevalent elsewhere.”
Her Durango clinic and properties sold immediately and Mimi moved to Crested Butte in 2009. “I started Bliss right away and my first client was a dog and it just went from there,” she smiles at the opportunities her Elk Avenue clinic affords.
Last year she began another venture of love, a raw food bar for people on the go who want a more health-conscious treat. She calls them “Love Bites.” It started as a snack for herself and daughter, expanded to friends.
Mimi says, “Everybody who tasted it liked it, so I decided to make it into a real product instead of making them just for ourselves. It’s all done by hand from making it to packaging and all of it’s done in a commercial kitchen. The next step is to have it in places like Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods. It’s time for it to move beyond the valley.”
The love and art of making a good cup of coffee is something that never lost its allure for Mimi, and having had that affinity for superb java, which can be a religious experience for many caffeine lovers, Mimi recently set out to explore the craft once again.
“Coffee…” she almost swoons, “I love coffee and believe it should be a health food.” Mimi feels that most of the coffee on the market today is not healthy. “If you buy coffee from a grocery store it’s just like everything else, you don’t know how long it’s been on the shelf or how it was produced or grown,” she says and recites the mantra, “Know your farmer, know your food.”
She explains that there’s a problem with mycotoxins, a mold that can grow in coffee if it sits too long on the shelf. “You can have an organic, fair trade wonderful coffee and even if it’s roasted, if it sits on the shelf for eight months it oxidizes and oxidation equals death. When something in the body oxidizes it becomes toxic to the body. I knew there was a better, healthier way to do coffee.” Mimi contacted an expert living in Bali, whom she had met in her bakery, with the same degree of passion and artistry in coffee. Turned out, oddly, that he was coming to Crested Butte for a family reunion and he agreed to teach her the process.
He works with the berries, extracting the bean, and the roasting, as well as the retail aspect of being a barista. She now slow roasts seasonal beans she imports. “It’s all cyclical, right from the farms, so the location changes with the seasons. Last summer it was Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica and right now I have Colombian and Peruvian. All of my beans are high altitude because I want to mimic what we have here. I’m picky, so it’s all certified organic, high altitude, fair trade, farmer owned. I contact the farmers directly through a coffee broker friend. The purpose of slow roasting is not to crank out coffee to produce large batches and make a lot of money, it’s to micro slow roast so that it’s always fresh.”
Mimi’s new company is called Mountain Made Coffee Roasters and it’s locally available and online as well.
Mimi’s life is packed with her endeavors and raising Sophia, but the two like to explore, hike, play, dig in the mud and all those things a seven-year-old wants to do. She has animals and gardens to tend to. The latter Mimi confesses, thrive on neglect.
“When I ride my bike down Elk Avenue in the summer and look at the mountains and the beauty and the happy faces… that does it for me. The developer of chiropractic practice had a quote: ‘You never know how far reaching something you think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.’ I want to embody that and that’s partly what keeps me here. I want to know that when I’m long gone, my daughter will be proud of what I contributed in this lifetime.”
For more information on Mimi’s products and services, go to lovebitesbars.com, mountainmadecoffee.com and blisschiropractic.com.