Publish Date: Jun 20, 2011
MODWOMAN DENISE MARI - ORGANIC GURU
MODWOMEN has heard amazing things from our MODWOMEN friends about Denise Mari, Founder of Organic Avenue which is a New York city healthy lifestyle company renowned for its detox cleanses. A healthy journey based on LOVE (Live. Organic.Vegan. Experience) with a celebrity fan base such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, Russell Simmons and Donna Karan. Denise shares with us some of her journey to Organic Avenue.
MW: Can we start with how you started into the raw lifestyle?
DM: Many years ago, after five years of a vegetarian diet and lifestyle, I was ready to embark on the next level of learning. I was investigating veganism and since I didn’t know any vegans, I found an organization in NYC called “The Big Apple Vegetarians.” I learned of an upcoming panel discussion covering the vegan lifestyle. I wanted to attend and see if I could meet vegans and see for myself if they were healthy. Up to that point the people in my world would say “you need to eat meat for protein” or “you need to drink milk for calcium.” But, I had a strong spiritual belief that was growing stronger each day around not having to kill or harm another in order to be healthy. At this meeting, not only did I meet enthusiastic and intelligent people, but they were also vibrantly healthy. I learned about the raw food diet, which made total sense - eat as close to nature as possible, don’t cook your foods because it changes their chemical composition, etc. Once that seed was planted, as common sense as it seems, I was a changed being. Though I didn’t change my habits overnight, I am now completely raw.
MW: Was it a difficult adjustment to eat completely raw?
DM: The adjustment was difficult. It was early in the raw food movement so there weren’t as many ready-made options available at health food stores, and there were no raw food restaurants at that time. I really didn’t know what to eat. But, I do remember the early days of my best attempts and how amazing, energized and excited I was. It took me a period of 10 months to completely transition to 100% raw. Some of the other difficulties were more social in nature. Family visits brought up the topic of raw/vegan food, and since I was still a novice, it tested me at every turn. I had to learn how to answer questions like, “Where do you get your protein?” That was a big one. I also had to learn how to prepare new foods that were delicious and fully satisfying.
MW: What are some of the benefits you have experienced from an organic raw lifestyle?
DM: My most cherished benefit is an awareness and consciousness that I didn’t have before. Before raw I had fuzzy glasses and dark blinders, and after raw the glass began to clear and the blinders lifted. This doesn’t mean I became a master of any action or insight, but I did begin to feel and see more than I had before.
The second benefit I cherish is the empowerment I have to take responsibility for my own health. To really look at any imbalance or symptom and ask myself what I have done or ate that caused it. Also I became empowered knowing where my food was coming from and because I was eating less and less processed food, I actually knew how to feed myself. It was no longer a mystery.
On top of the awareness and empowerment, within the first three months my acne prone skin cleared, my lifelong issues with constipation were relieved, I had more energy and needed less sleep, lost 30 unnecessary pounds and my mood and outlook on life improved.
MW: Tell us about the birth of Organic Avenue?
DM: Organic Avenue is an idea that I conceived 10 years ago during my journey toward choosing a vegan lifestyle. During my initial days of raw food eating and cleansing, I conceived of a business that would help provide access to a LOVE* (Live. Organic. Vegan. Experience) lifestyle and wanted to make it convenient, accessible, affordable, and fun. Throughout my journey of learning I felt disappointment and deprivation. When I read labels and saw there were ingredients that were unacceptable, I would place them back on the shelves. Or when I would pick up a clothing item and see it was made of animal parts (cashmere, wool, leather), I would put it back using discipline and my commitment to LOVE*. Through this experience I knew in my heart that others would not go to these lengths. I knew people would find the lifestyle difficult and therefore they wouldn’t commit to it. So, I envisioned Organic Avenue as a store, brand and online experience with community, product, services and support that would make the lifestyle accessible. This way others would be able to experience and then embrace this way of living, too. Organic Avenue is my heart and soul’s mission to help people, animals and the environment. What is amazing is the LOVE* that Organic Avenue stands for works on issues affecting us all.
MW: Did you develop a lot of Organic Avenue’s menu items from your own experience?
DM: Over the years I have been directing the menu creation along with various trained chefs. I love to work with skilled and creative people and add my guidance to create a product that I love and want to share and be proud of.
MW: How was the Organic Avenue Lifestyle received in the beginning? Was it a difficult growth?
DM: Organic Avenue has been received well since the very beginning. But, it had a slow start because it was an idea and a girl without any funding! So I did what I could and used my apartment, my credit cards and my creativity and kept tremendous faith knowing that what I was doing was important and would succeed. A dear friend and entrepreneur (George Naddaff) always said, “No problems, no business.” It rings true for me.
MW: What would you say is your client ratio is …. women versus men?
DM: Since we are NYC-based, where women outnumber men, and because we have an offering that helps people lose weight and feel great, women flock to us. But that said we also cater to many executive men and have a loyal following of both men and women. I would say approximately 65% are women.
MW: What age range of women do you have as clients?
DM: All ages!
MW: We imagine you have seen many transformations of your women clients, what would you say is some of the most remarkable results that you have seen?
DM: I love seeing people who are daily drinkers of alcohol become daily drinkers of green juice. I love seeing people who were abusing their bodies with fake food turn to real food and see their bodies and spirits transform. I love seeing the depressed become inspired. I love seeing the people who are loaded with prescription medicines become empowered and turn toward whole foods, juices and cleansing supplementation.
MW: We understand that feeding your body with high quality plant based nutrition can serve a better all around lifestyle but do you feel this type of lifestyle would also help women in symptoms of menopause? If so how?
DM: I think it will help any issue. It should be the starting point. Make sure you are getting full nutrition and healthy organic whole food supplement support, cleanse if necessary with juice and raw food, and then see what symptoms are left. I’m not experienced with menopause but I do know PMS from the days before I was vegan. At that time I experienced bloating, mood swings, cramping and acne. Now I don’t! No more missed work, no more disabling episodes. I believe menopause symptoms will be relieved with this approach, too.
MW: We understand that you organize retreats and cleanses for your clients, can you tell us a bit about your retreats and your cleanses?
DM: I love organizing cleanse and retreat programs. And I partner with people I know are offering great services and point people in what I believe is the right direction to have amazing experiences that help to affirm commitment through education and experience. My favorite retreat programs involve yoga, hot springs, colonics, raw alkaline food and juicing, consultations, outdoor nature adventures, sun and visiting unique and beautiful places around the world.
MW: Do you have a lot of female friends that live a raw lifestyle?
DM: I have many friends on the path, loving themselves every step of the way. We must remember it’s the journey not the destination and to enjoy the process. And it is a process.
MW: What do call your personal style?
DM: Personal. A babydoll with an edge, Always a little glitter or shine. Always looking for comfort, femininity, functionality and ethical as far as clothing goes.
MW: Who would you say is one of your favourite designers?
DM: Eairth (clothes), Melissa (shoes)
MW: What have been some of your favourite moments of this journey so far?
DM: I’ve met many people that are sweet dear friends and had many experiences with them and we have grown as family since. I’d have to say what goes on at some of the retreats, the connections and experiences have left lasting memories.
MW: What are some of your plans growing forward?
DM: Besides opening many new stores in the next two years, I am busy developing Organic Avenue’s The Space of LOVE* Elixir bar and LOVE*lounge. This is a concept I have been brewing that will give people a place to go, socialize, learn, and enjoy herbal mocktails and elixirs for health. This will be a place that you leave improved rather than inebriated and sickened, a place for finding community and consciousness rather than going unconscious (as is in other night club experiences).