Now that Organic Avenue founder Denise Mari is set to open her seventh New York City location (this one will be on the Upper West Side), it’s increasingly clear that Organic Avenue’s mission is not just to expand its a la carte juice sales into every neighborhood, but to become a holistic lifestyle company. That’s a first on the competitive juice-and-cleanse scene.
Denise Mari, the Juice World's Martha Stewart
With the opening of the Space of LOVE (an acronym for Live, Organic, Vegan, Experience) in early 2010, the brand had a legitimate 4,000-square-foot flagship. Mari set about busily stocking a huge array of juices, as well as raw food snacks, pantry essentials for vegans, and conscious skin care like Dr. Alkaitis.
She was no longer carrying the clothing and kitchen items that the first OA had, but clearly Mari sees herself as the juice world’s Martha Stewart—a creator and curator.
Now, after launching a half dozen locations, and admittedly experiencing some growing pains, Mari is ready for Organic Avenue to reclaim its roots as an “organic general store.”
As Mari says, “The goal is to make people transition to and support this lifestyle, and if we can make it interesting and accessible that will happen.” Part of that process is a growing selection of products, says Mari, who has added supplements and more beauty product lines like Tata Harper. “It’s a lifestyle experience, so home and clothes will also come into play as we evolve.”
But does every New York neighborhood really need an Organic Avenue juice or lifestyle store?“We’re not a store people come to once a week or once a month, but every day. Sometimes more than once a day,” says Mari of her decision. “And we want to serve them the best quality.”
Supposing enough New Yorkers are willing to lay out for OA’s pricy health tonics, then there’s the trademark bad service. Regulars complained purchasing a $12 or $14 pre-made juice shouldn’t take longer than a made-to-order latte. (In our experience, OA employees enjoy talking to each other more than they enjoy taking care of customers.) And the $2 bottle deposit can be infuriating.
Now Mari has made customer service a priority and is trying to do away with the members-only vibe.The staff has undergone further training, and specific roles from director of retail operations to customer service manager have been created. Mari admits, “There was a disconnect there and we needed to add a layer of management. We are hearing more praises, which means it’s working.”
The jury’s still out on whether Mari can turn her Lower East Side insider outpost into a lifestyle brand. But if the number of bright orange Organic Avenue bags we see around town are any indication, her green-juice revolution is working. —Alia Akkam