For successful independent natural products retailers, it’s the personal touch that makes the difference. That’s certainly the case for Marlene’s Market & Deli, WholeFoods Magazine’s 2021 Retailer of the Year.

“Marlene’s journey to 45 years of a successful business is about people,” says Lisa Gebhardt, daughter of Founder Marlene Beadle and now CEO of the family-owned business. “If you don’t have people who care, it doesn’t work. We have built relationships with our customers, our staff, our vendors, our brokers, and our distributors all along the way. I feel if we have that solid network of good people with us and add trust, good work ethics, common sense, and creativity, we are good to go.”

Given this mindset, it’s not surprising that one of Gebhardt’s favorite memories of her time at the store centers on others: “One of our longtime customers recently celebrated her 100th birthday,” Gebhardt told WholeFoods. “Mary and her husband Ed became good friends of Marlene many years ago when Ed sold his Early Girl tomato plants to us each spring. Mary and Ed were customers, vendors, and friends. Being able to celebrate Mary’s birthday with her reminded me how many special people we have known over the years.”

As an independent, family-owned media company serving the natural products industry for over 35 years, the team at WholeFoods loves hearing—and sharing—stories like these. And we want to hear your story, too. Drop us a line at so we can share insights and inspiration that helps lift others in the industry up. We’d love to know: What’s your favorite work memory? What motto or mindset fuels your success? What is the best lesson passed to you by your mentor? What is the biggest message you would like to leave for future generations? What actions would you like to see members of the natural products industry implement to help our collective success? Send us your thoughts on one—or all!—of these questions and we will share in future articles.

To kick off the inspiration, turn to page 16 to hear what the team members at Marlene’s Market & Deli have to say about their mentor, mindset, and more…including how they dealt with the hard times of 2020-2021. Get more motivation and success secrets by searching “Retailer of the Year” on for profiles of independent natural products retailers and co-ops that have made a positive impact on their local communities over the decades.

While you are at it, check out page 39 of this issue (search “Happy Customer” for more on our site) to hear directly from consumers about the touches big and small that have made them loyal shoppers at their local natural products store. And please let that shopper who is always coming through your doors with a smile and a kind word know that we would love to hear from them too—happy customers can email to share what keeps them coming back to their favorite shop.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and sharing your story!

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