Mary Schoenlein is Marvelous and a Woman Entrepreneur
Nine years ago a tiny store front called Marys Marvelous opened in Amagansett. The place was sparse with a small table in the center of the room and a counter with a small selection of breakfast treats with coffee on one side. At least that is what I remember. I also remember that every store in town would ask if you had tried anything at Mary's Marvelous yet because her food is fantastic. Nine years and running, Mary's Marvelous is standing room only from early morning to late afternoon….and everything is good. Our family absolutely loves the maple scones.
Mary didn't grow up in Amagansett she grew up in Bermuda, an entirely different beach community. Her family was stationed there. All their relatives were in the states so they spent their summers in America. At one point her mother became a single parent raising four children. All the kids pitched in to keep the household going and one of the lessons was cooking. Mary loved to bake.
After high school she roamed for a few years around the country ending up in Colorado until an accident brought her back to Bermuda. Her mother had been in an accident and Mary and her sister went back to help their Mom get back on her feet. It wasn't easy getting work because they were Americans without immigration status. Odd jobs were the key. After three years her Mom was back on track and Mary made her way to Genesee in upstate New York. She began working with severely handicapped kids which she was passion about. Yet on the side she was working for a caterer who fed all the rock shows that came through town. She found herself backstage cooking and feeding people like Jackson Browne, Sting and Bonnie Raitt. Mary loved the cooking and realized that she should pursue her love of food professionally instead.
A slight career pivot and she went to the top chef in Rochester and asked him for a job. She walked in his office where he was eating caviar from a jar when Mary asked him for a job. He smirked when she asked him for the hardest job he had. He put her on the line and it was there where she cut her teeth. It was 1981 and this chef was cooking sweetbreads in Rochester. He has learned his trade in the kitchens of France. Mary felt as if the world of cooking just spoke to her and she had never been happier. The chef kept pushing Mary to leave Rochester perhaps because for whatever reason he couldn't make the move himself but he saw something in Mary and so off to NYC she went.
The pastry chef in the kitchen also left with Mary to seek their fame and fortune. When she got to NYC she felt like she had struck gold. She started working at Jams which was the premier restaurant of Jonathan Waxman serving up California cuisine. Her role there wasn't meaty enough as she really wanted to be in the thick of things. She ended up at Gotham Bar and Grill just as they were opening. While she was there Gotham got their first review of 3 stars from Ruth Reichl and they went from 100 covers a night to 400. She stayed 3 1/2 years and decided it was time to move to France and learn something new.
Mary stayed in France for a few months and made her way back to NYC. She was looking for something else but wasn't sure what it was. When she came back she worked at Petrossian for a short stint. Then connected with Diane Forley who had opened a small place in the West Village before she opened Verbena. Mary knew she wanted to open her own place but wasn't sure where. She was hopping around finding herself working for a caterer who wanted to sell Mary the business but she wasn't interested. Then Mary met her husband.
She and her husband looked everywhere to settle down and they ended up in Amagansett. Mary worked as a chef out here while developing her idea in the back of her head. She would drive by the empty store front in Amagansett every day thinking that it could be the spot. Even the guy who owned the building started to call Mary. She jumped in and signed a lease. Like all good construction stories the place barely opened on the day that they had planned as the refrigerators all died that day but they opened the door and Mary's Marvelous was born.
She has grown over nine years listening to what the local clientele wants and expanding her offerings. Mary now makes a variety of products sold in other locations around town including a bunch of killer granolas. She is thinking about what is next for the products or for more locations or a larger space. Many thoughts. Mary is methodical which is probably one of the keys to her success. It was great to talk to Mary, I have been a huge fan of her store and products for years. There is probably a small part of me that would love to do something similar to what Mary has done. She has followed her passion of food. As she said to me that in her earlier years when she started working for the chef in Rochester she thought to herself, I can't believe I get paid to do this. Looking forward to see what happens next.