Last week we lost a huge pillar of Austin’s holistic health culture, the founder and owner of Peoples Pharmacy, also an occasional lunch partner and the father of my bestie, his incomparable daughter Jeneen, who stepped up to run the business after his car accident a few years ago.
How it all started
Bill Swail received his Doctorate of Pharmacy in 1973 and opened his first pharmacy in 1980. He took a genuine interest in the lives and health of his customers, and so he was always on the floor, instead of behind the counter, talking to them and learning from them.
Over time, he noticed something unexpected: the more medications patients took, the sicker they often became. He was frustrated that he was not restoring their health but only treating their symptoms. He knew he could do better and wanted to offer more. He started investigating “alternative” solutions and gradually built a unique business that successfully blended conventional pharmaceuticals (and custom compounding) with holistic and novel approaches to healing.
Peoples now boasts the largest team of natural health practitioners in Texas, among them acupuncturists, naturopaths, nutritionists, and herbalists. I personally know many of them, and they have helped me and my family through all kinds of illnesses.
Bill also loved clean food. So he designed a deli where all ingredients are carefully vetted, mostly organic, with an emphasis on local. I consume more take-out from Peoples than from anywhere else in Austin. Their grass-fed chili is famous and their Indian dal is silky and mouthwatering. My 14-year old gobbles up their kale-and-chicken-caesar salad and my husband craves their gluten-free desserts. I love their green juices and recently completed a juice cleanse.
It’s good to know, when I walk in the door, that I can trust everything in there. Same goes for their supplements—there’s a million choices online and who knows what’s really in them? Bill knows, because he has personally visited their facilities and assessed the quality of their practices. Luckily, he has trained his experienced staff to monitor the processes and integrity of food and supplement manufacturers so that his work will carry forward uninterrupted.
What else made Bill so special?
I last saw Bill on a Facetime call with Jeneen on New Year’s day 2022. But the Bill that I will remember is the one with the indomitable twinkle in his eye, the one who laughed so easily when I teased him, the one who made me feel at home in his store. Also, the Bill who was always experimenting with new products and tossing around new ideas: “Should I make the whole bakery gluten-free? Is this coffee substitute tasty? Let me tell you about this new infra-red device…”.
Bill was incorrigibly curious about new modalities of treatment and ways to optimize health. He pioneered the integrative pharmacy format, and he did so with a big heart and a mission to help all his customers, family and friends achieve true wellness.
Last Radio show
In Bill’s memory I am posting his last radio show, held just two days before the tragic car accident in which he broke his neck and ended his career. It features three guests who are making the world a better and healthier place from different angles:
Amy Gallo, former Market Coordinator for the Sustainable Food Center: www.sustainablefoodcenter.org. SFC Farmers’ Markets are open Saturdays from 9am-1pm. Are you familiar with all the resources in your community? Is there a farmers’ market near you? What about a CSA? Maybe a co-op?
Erika Flint, Hypnotherapist and author of: Reprogram Your Weight: Stop Thinking About Food All the Time. Unbeknownst to some, hypnotherapy is not a “fringe” practice. My Boston Children’s Hospital trained pediatric gastroenterologist at Dell recommended a hypnotherapy program for my son after many months of unresolved stomach pain. I myself, have used hypnotherapy to address my phobia of needles and IVs.
Dr. Renee Dufault, Author of Unsafe at Any Meal: What the FDA Does Not Want You to Know About the Foods You Eat. I have spent years researching government agencies that are supposed to protect the American public by regulating industries. It turns out that most of their efforts are spent protecting industry profits and concealing damning information from the public.
A special shout-out to Dr. Dufault who corroborates all my research and provides a window into the FDA from the inside, where she tried unsuccessfully to draw attention to food contamination…from mercury! She was initially ignored and then reprimanded for her efforts. She was forced to halt her research and eventually resigned.
What’s hiding in your food?
From Renee Dufault’s fascinating book:
To honor Bill Swail’s mission, which was to offer alternatives to the mainstream medical establishment and corporate food, please consider buying and reading this book to educate yourself and to protect your and your family’s health. Also, subscribe to this blog for valuable tips to eat and live better.
And, of course, if you’re lucky enough to live in Austin, go visit one of Bill’s stores and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and resources you’ll find there!
Want to know who else has pure, clean food?
Casa de Luz. And guess who will be there in all her superpower glory selling the fabulous new smoothie card game for kids and adorable plant-themed shirts and totes? That’s right, me. Come to Casa’s Valentine’s festival on Saturday February 12 to discover all kinds of food, beauty products, and clothing and enjoy a scrumptious, organic, hearty, veggie meal.