It’s standing-room only this rainy Sunday morning under the bright orange awning of Organic Avenue’s West Village location. Neighboring raw food diehards have come out in droves to get their fix of the organic fresh-pressed offerings: vegetable juices, shot-sized elixirs, protein-rich smoothies as well as an assortment of plant-based raw meals, all prepared in the Organic Avenue L.O.V.E* tradition: Live. Organic. Vegan. Experience. Words such as “raw” and “vegan” may conjure up images of Birkenstocks and neo-hippies for some;
however, Organic Avenue is anything but. The environments ooze a chic luxury vegan lifestyle — a re-think only NYC could pull off. With minimal walls, bamboo floors and a spectrum of bold color radiating from juice-filled jars, the result is thoroughly modern.

With Organic Avenue’s six locations in Manhattan, it’s likely you’ll see an assortment of model, yoga, dancer or general all-around “it girls” running about the city carrying bright orange bags bearing the mysterious Organic Avenue symbol that resonates as both ancient and contemporary, connecting like-minded people. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Juliette Lewis and Meg Ryan have been spotted on city outings carrying the über cool Organic Avenue signature recyclable glass flasks. The precious liquid, touted as “candy for the cells,” has even replaced champagne backstage at Fashion Week for many shows. The Norma Kamali Store on 56th Street carries their products, and Organic Avenue provides the juice of choice served in the world renowned Central Park West Jean-Georges restaurant.

Organic Avenue is the brainchild of Denise Mari, who has been living the L.O.V.E* lifestyle for over 13 years. She envisioned Organic Avenue as a store, brand and online experience with a community, products, services and support that would make the raw lifestyle accessible. Holding a Master’s in Education, she was a pioneer in the New York City raw scene, setting up a professional-grade kitchen in her home for teaching raw food preparation classes long before “raw” restaurants hit public awareness. “Organic Avenue is my heart and soul’s mission to help people, animals and the environment,” said Mari.

Her unending enthusiasm coupled with her gift to teach inspired entrepreneur and raw food advocate Doug Evans to join Organic Avenue as CEO. Both have impressive track records ranging from extensive Dharma Mittra yoga training, Vipassana meditation and, of course, promoting the benefits of raw foods. They meet you at any level of your health journey, and their approach is simple; Evans recommends “having one raw meal a day; if you feel better, add more.”

Their signature LOVE* Cleanse is a hot celebrity ticket, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Ordered the day before, bottles will arrive via rickshaw at your doorstep for five days of a juice-only diet. And while fasting may sound radical to some, the concept has been around for thousands of years and is present in varying degrees in most religions. Ayurvedic philosophy teaches that occasionally giving your digestion a break and freeing your cells to work on repairing other areas of your body, even for one day, may have long-term benefits in warding off disease. With dairy, wheat, corn and meat forming the bulk of the Standard American Diet (SAD), society has developed an addiction for a glucose fix. This withdrawal effect can make the transition to the LOVE* lifestyle a bit harder to achieve at first. But “push on to the promised land of less cloudy days and the end of lethargy,” encourages the Organic Avenue online community. You won’t be alone on this journey. If a five-day juice fast seems daunting, they have formulated an easier route: LOVE* Easy — for beginners (raw food and
juice) and LOVE* Fast — for the advanced (juice with limited raw food).

Mari urged, “We must remember it’s the journey, not the destination, and to enjoy the process. And it is a process.” And while Mari is candid regarding the high level of discipline involved in her lifestyle, her sparkling eyes, luminous skin and infectious joy make you an instant believer. I’ll have what she’s having.

TEXT BY Debra Winter