Chris Dawson at Culinary Conspiracy. Photo: Submitted

Chris Dawson at Culinary Conspiracy. Photo: Submitted

Serious heart condition forces owner to close Nelson food store

Culinary Conspiracy co-owner Chris Dawson is preparing for a heart transplant

Chris Dawson and his wife Barb Williams are closing their specialty food store Culinary Conspiracy on Baker Street because Dawson has a heart condition that requires a transplant.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support and outright love that we’ve received from the community,” Dawson told the Nelson Star in a phone interview from Vancouver.

“We’re going to miss the business very much,” said Williams, who is looking after the store during its wind-down. “We’ve had so much fun with it over the years and have made lots of foodie friends.”

Dawson is living in Vancouver for three months, getting ready to have a medical device – a left ventricular assist – implanted in his heart.

“It allows the left ventricle of my heart to relax a little more, and it sort of takes over,” he says. “So I get better blood pressure, better blood flow.”

The device serves as a bridge toward an eventual heart transplant. After the three months of being checked weekly at St. Paul’s hospital, Dawson will go on a transplant list.

In the meantime, it doesn’t make sense to travel back and forth weekly between Nelson and Vancouver, so he’s living in an apartment near St. Paul’s Hospital contributed by the Vancouver Heart Homes Society, which provides low-cost housing to heart transplant patients.

When he receives a new heart, Dawson will have to spend another three months in Vancouver. That means running a small family-owned business in Nelson is not an option.

Part of the program will require Williams to be in Vancouver as well, for emotional and practical support during his treatments and tests. One of their daughters is planning to live in Nelson temporarily to help with the store.

“It’s just impossible to continue with the store, as much as we hate [closing it], and as much as we love what we do,” Dawson says. “And as we get older, we were asking how long do we want to keep doing this. I think every business owner does that at some point, and this has pushed us into that.”

In 2006, the year Culinary Conspiracy opened, Dawson went into congestive heart failure from a childhood condition and ended up on medication and with a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in his chest. Since then he has had regular check-ups at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and at the most recent one, the doctors noticed changes.

“They said, ‘OK, you’re not leaving,’” he says.

He spent a week in intensive care, with medication and monitoring. Then the cardiologists decided he will need a transplant.

Dawson says he knows and trusts the cardiac team at St. Paul’s. That trust gives him confidence and comfort.

Williams says the couple has decided not to sell the business, just to sell off the inventory and assets. She says she knows how much time and energy it takes to sell a business, and she has a bigger priority: Dawson’s health.

“It’s a really scary procedure, what he’s going through,” she says, “but I also know that it is his best chance for getting some kind of semblance of normal life.

“It’s been very emotional, to tell you the truth. It always hits in waves. Any time you’re dealing with grief and loss, it comes in waves. And the customer support has been overwhelming: just tons of positive energy, tons of positive thoughts towards Chris, towards our store, towards everything.”

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