An interview with Organic Avenue founder Denise Mari by Nell Alk.
In 2000, Denise Mari started healthy lifestyle company Organic Avenue out of her home. As of two weeks ago, she’s opened OA’s tenth storefront, located on the northeast corner of 21st Street and 8th Avenue in trendy Chelsea. Known for an array of organic, raw vegan offerings (from juices and smoothies to kale chips to wraps to gluten-free chocolate tarts) and a grab-and-go M.O., this latest location—though it’s currently in “pop-up” stage—will soon be a sit-and-stay kind of place.
Mari, now 38, is what she eats. She follows the nutrition philosophy behind the nourishment she sells, summed up by OA mantra “LOVE,” a.k.a. the “Live (long i) Organic Vegan Experience.” With a slender frame, glowing skin, sparkling eyes, radiant hair, and a truly loving mindset, Mari’s got the traits to match the gait.
But can she also talk the talk? I stopped by the grand opening of OA’s latest location to find out.
First off, what’s in store for this new location?
This space is going to be home to our new expanded concept. We’re looking forward to incorporating more community interaction, more seating, more foods and juices in more than a grab-and-go format. We may have an elegant bar serving elixirs and smoothies. Come winter, you’ll be able to heat your soups. We have a full kitchen here, so we’ll start working with consciously cooked food—really clean, but allowing us to offer more than raw. I think a lot of people need that bridge between the two.
How would you classify your own diet?
I’m vegan. I eat predominantly raw food, but not a hundred percent. Vegetarian 18-plus years, 13-plus years vegan/mostly raw.
What first inspired you to get there?
It began in childhood. I had a love for animals. When I was eight, I went fishing with my father and made the connection between fish and food. I didn’t feel like it was something I could consume, so I gave it up. Then came college. I met my first vegetarian and started asking myself, Why am I still eating meat when I love animals? If I could be healthy without it, then I wanted to explore it. So, I became a vegetarian and, about five years later, became interested in actually learning about what I was consuming. I visited PETA’s website and found out there’s an entire industry associated with the byproducts of animals. I felt very uncomfortable about this. Then, I learned about veganism and, luckily, raw foodism at the same time. I became more health-conscious and chose to eat more intelligently.
Aside from Organic Ave, what’s your favorite eating establishment in NYC?
If I’m sticking close to raw, you’ll find me at Pure Food & Wine. If I’m looking for comfort food, you’ll find me in one of the Blossoms. V-Note on the Upper East Side I tend to enjoy very much.
What motivates you to eat raw?
The more juicing I do and the less cooked food I eat, the better I look and feel. It’s motivation, because you see results right away. Go a couple days on cucumber and green juice and you’ll see the glow.
If someone’s not already juicing, why should they start?
If you feel great and think you’re getting younger, don’t. But, if you have any chronic symptoms, feel like your energy is low, or you’re aging faster than you should, I suggest trying an unprocessed raw vegan diet with lots of juicing. It really is a panacea for health, the planet, and animals.
What do you say if someone says Organic Avenue’s offerings are too expensive?
It’s true, they are expensive. The reason? We don’t skimp. We use only the highest quality ingredients. Organic certified. If people are eager to spend $12 on a cocktail at a bar, well, this $9 juice is an investment in your health and has long-term benefits.
Your costs go down in other ways, I think.
You reduce time out of work. Your energy’s up, so you’re exercising more than you were. Your clarity of purpose is there. Endless benefits. After going raw, I felt the best I’d ever felt. And spiritually, it tapped me into the idea of Organic Avenue and allowed me to discover my purpose—what I was going to do with my life.
Do you still exercise a lot?
Not as much as I’d like, but you know, the diet takes care of a lot. At one point I was 155 pounds. I was overweight, sluggish, fatigued. Not anymore. I think about a horse eating grass all day but being this extremely healthy, muscular animal. Many of the biggest mammals on the planet are raw vegans. It’s a choice we humans have. Do we want to live a lifestyle that supports more death, sickness, and disease? Or do we want to live a lifestyle of peace and nonviolence?
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