Tribute to Marlene Beadle, Founder and Owner of Marlene’s Market and Deli

June 24th 2019

A Life of Enormous Impact

Announcing the passing on June 16th of Marlene Beadle, founder and owner of Marlene’s Market and Deli in Federal Way and Tacoma, WA, and longtime Provender Alliance member and supporter.

“Marlene is alive through all of us holding her vision for Health & Wellness!”
– Stephen Markham, Nature’s Path Foods

“Marlene was a steadfast pioneer and innovator. She had an impressive commitment to both a pure natural food retail store, and to community education about healthy living. Funny how someone can be a living link to our roots and so far ahead of us at the same time.”
– Joe Wade, Provender Alliance, Board of Directors

In honor of Marlene’s contributions to the natural foods community, Provender would like to share an excerpt from a tribute to her by friend J. Jacobowitz:

“It was more than 43 years ago that Marlene Beadle launched her first small natural foods store, which would eventually become the two large Marlene’s Market & Deli stores in Federal Way and Tacoma, totaling 38,000 square feet and employing nearly 200.

Marlene was remarkable for many reasons. First, Marlene was a visionary who found unacceptable the shortcomings of a commercial food industry that offered only highly processed, artificially sweetened and chemically preserved foods. Remember, in the 1970s, it was impossible to find yogurt in a grocery store. Supermarkets did not carry whole grain products, offer healthy fats, or freshly cooked foods.

Marlene was also a female entrepreneur. In the ‘70s, American women had yet to fully emerge from their traditional role in the home to join men in the workforce. If a woman did work outside the home, her duties were likely to be secretarial, assisting a man. And it was far less likely than working for someone else that a woman would found her own business.

Nor was the business Marlene chose a familiar or accepted one. It was a new breed of business, a natural foods store. Mainstream American culture did not welcome the natural foods movement with open arms. People who bought bulk foods, cooked whole grains, and chewed raw nuts and seeds, were derisively labeled “health nuts” who craved birdseed and rabbit food.

Locating acceptable natural products at the beginning was a full-time job for Marlene. There was no such convenience as a natural foods distributor delivering thousands of clean, organic products to the store door several times a week. Marlene had to develop her own sources of supply, encouraging and supporting other entrepreneurs to develop their own natural products for sale at Marlene’s, and by doing so, essentially defined the character of the natural products movement.

From the beginning, Marlene insisted on a standard of the highest quality ingredients. When Marlene couldn’t find an acceptable trail mix, she created her own: Marlene’s Merry Mix. To make the recipe ingredients the same size, Marlene instructed employees cut each almond in half. Over the years, many a Marlene’s employee on Merry Mix duty would question this seemingly small detail. But Marlene knew that in order to achieve excellence, you must pay attention to the smallest things.

And even though Marlene reduced her presence in the stores over the last few years to deal with the health issues she was facing, Marlene’s vision, courage, and passion continues to generate devoutly loyal customers and employees. It is not unusual for Marlene’s employees to be serving in their 20th year or longer, or for the children—and even the grandchildren—of Marlene’s first customers to continue shopping today.

Before it was a phenomenon, Marlene created a “safe space” for people seeking a nourishing place to work, and a refreshing wellspring of hope, knowledge, and sincere caring for those seeking to achieve optimum health. Marlene Beadle, rest in peace.”