In 1989, Debra opened Debra’s Natural Gourmet, which was honored as WholeFoods Magazine'sRetailer of the Yearin 2015. Talking to WholeFoods for that feature, Stark shared that the mission that led to Debra’s Natural Gourmet is one that she has held on to since childhood: “getting people to eat organic and natural not just to bring the pleasures to the table, but to help lower healthcare costs in this country.”
Sharing the business philosophy that has made her a legend in the industry (she was named a Natural Products Industry “Legend” years ago), Debra told WholeFoods about the three-legged stool metaphor, explaining that the three legs are the customers, employees and suppliers/distributors/manufacturers who provide them with the products to sell—all three components are integral to the business, and they support each other as well. “Without these three strong legs, we would not be here,” she said in that 2015 interview.
That care for all made Debra and her store a success, and speaks to why her legacy will carry on in this industry, and her name will not be forgotten. In 2015, while explaining how the store itself had evolved, she said the mission will always remain the same. "Our mission is still what it’s been since day one. We want to be that place where everybody knows your name.”
Debra shared more in her professional memoir “The Little Store that Could,” which was (self)-published in 2019.
Debra's Natural Gourmet wrote in the tribute that Debra did ask for donations in her name, but that she personally supported numerous local hunger, environmental, and community organizations.
Remembering more industry leaders:
Remembering Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Dietary Supplement Industry Champion In Memoriam: William F. Sardi, 1945-2022 In Memoriam: Steven Foster, Renowned Herbalist, Photographer, Author In Memoriam: Paul C. Ross, Bioforce USA In Memoriam: Marlene Lacy, A Way of Life Natural Foods, 1936-2021