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Last summer, Kim Massey left her 9-to-5 job to pursue the dream of working for herself.

The 1999 political science graduate had enjoyed her job as development director of the American Red Cross of East Central Wisconsin, but the desire to become an entrepreneur, she said, was impossible to ignore.

“Opening my own business was something I had always wanted to do, and when this opportunity presented itself, I just had to pursue it,” she said. “The pieces all came together perfectly.”

In July, Massey bought Live Oak Market, 119 E. College Ave., in Appleton, from John and Janell Oakes, who had opened the store just one year earlier. She had become acquainted with the store as a customer and had shopped there often. The store was the perfect place to find products that fit her healthy lifestyle.

Massey’s 4-year-old son, Aydan, has severe food allergies, and serving him healthy foods became a priority in recent years, she said. So opening Live Oak Market was more than a business decision: It made sense for her family, too.

She kept much of what the former store had offered but removed a soda machine and updated the floor plan.

“The original owners really did a great job setting the stage, and we have just refined the store a bit,” she said.

Live Oak Market’s mission it to provide “better for you” foods and specialty foods not found elsewhere in the Fox Valley area. One example of both is Boar’s Head, a 100-year-old company that makes premium delicatessen products out of fresh meats. The company insists on offering only pure beef and pork, chicken and turkey, with no fillers, gluten, artificial flavors, colors or trans fat.

“You can’t get it anywhere outside Milwaukee, and the demand is growing mainly because parents are tired of serving junk foods to their kids — and to themselves, for that matter,” said Massey, who is a member of the UW Oshkosh Alumni Association Board of Directors. “I have had customers drive from as far away as Door County for Boar’s Head products.”

Massey also offers fresh fish, which is flown in daily from Hawaii, and a wide range of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free products, such as Moo Moo’s Cuisine, a brand of frozen vegan and gluten-free entrees.

Live Oak Market also provides hard-to-find cheeses, baked donuts, fresh salads, gourmet pasta salads, and brown bag lunches for children and adults alike.

“About 9,000 people work in downtown Appleton, and we have found it a great place to do business,” she said. “People have told us they are happy we are here because we offer a healthy alternative to fast food and other typical lunch fare.”

Two part-time employees, who also had worked for the previous owners, have helped make the transition to new ownership as smooth as possible. They prepare all food from scratch and augment Live Oak’s reputation for personal attention and excellent service.

A lunch menu offers 16 pre-made sandwiches and wraps. Customers can choose to build their own, too. A children’s menu offers tasty lunch options, such as peanut butter and marshmallow fluff or peanut butter and banana.

A variety of packaged specialty foods and fine wines also are available, as are cleaning products made from natural ingredients.

“We really try to listen to the customers to learn what they would like to see offered,” Massey said. “Their feedback is so important to our success.”