With understated elegance, eyes as bright as crystal blue persuasion and an engaging warm-heartedness, Marnie Clark claims the elephant as her spirit animal.
“I say that all the time. Elephants are very pack oriented. They take care of each other and the whole family, and the women are strong. Female elephants are a force to be reckoned with.”
Quietly so, so is Marnie.
“I started curating and creating soft cocktails because there’s such a lack of fresh, delicious options in the hospitality industry. I want to effect a sea change.”
Marnie is well on her way to accomplishing just that.
As the founder of National Mocktail Week, Marnie was the inspiration behind the sold-out “Zero Proof” at Vibe Coworks, a panel event driving discussion around the booze-free drinking boom. The panel features diverse perspectives across health, wellness, workplace, the beverage industry and design and branding, including Dan Hollingsworth of Kitsap Cross Fit; Madeline Reeves of Fearless in Training; Peter Crabtree of High Spirits; and Dan McDougall from Malolo Design.
Next up for this fearless phenom? Recently featured in The Seattle Times in a story titled “Don’t Drink Alcohol? There’s a Hashtag for That: #SoberNotBoring”) Marnie has teamed up with non-alcoholid pop-up bar Sans Bar to celebrate National Mocktail week by kicking off their national Sans Bar tour in Seattle on January 17.
With the demand for soft cocktails on the rise, she’s also building up the Marnie Rae directory of restaurants and bars that make a splash with tasty alcohol-free drinks on their menus.
Marnie’s vision is all about inclusivity. “For those who don’t drink alcohol, whatever their reasons, I want them to be able to walk in anywhere and feel that they have choices that are fun and taste great. Everyone should be able to join in festivities, whether they’re out and about or at home. That’s why I started creating my own recipes. This is a whole new movement for celebrating the good life.”
Chinook Contractors, the company you and your husband Kelly founded, has been a local force in Kitsap’s development and economic growth since 1997. How did you make it so successful?
Marnie: Relationships are key. Kelly and I both believe our company has been such a success because of the solid relationships we’ve built with our employees, subcontractors, vendors and customers. We’re committed to that, and there’s a lot of long-term loyalty.
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Marnie: Chocolate chip mint. The green kind! With Hershey’s syrup on top. I used to have it when I came home from school, sitting on the couch and having my ice cream.
How do you think other female founders in this market can better access resources to create their own success?
Marnie: Again, there’s no secret sauce. It’s all about relationships, especially in a small community like ours. It’s really important to become involved, nurturing your connections. For me, other female founders have been the best resource. The women-supporting-women movement is gathering even more steam, and I feel like we’re our biggest advocates for each other.
What’s your fondest childhood memory?
Marnie: My brother and I used to go to my grandparents in Whitefish, Montana, every summer for four weeks. It was a straight shot, a 13-hour drive in our Datsun pick-up, and the two of us would pile into the back under the canopy with our sleeping bags. We had an old-fashioned intercom system so we could let our parents know when it was time for a pit stop. They’d drop us off, and we’d stay there a whole month. And then Mom and Dad would come fetch us home.
As a young kid, I wanted to be there, but when I got older, I didn’t appreciate it as much. And now, I’m just super thankful for that time.
Where do you hope that being a solopreneur leads you?
Marnie: I want to continuing making an impact in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. I want people to be a part of the conversation, the connection, the celebration. My wish would be to be known as one of the leaders in this movement.
Share with us why you have an attachment to elephants.
Marnie: I fostered a baby elephant through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) just outside of Nairobi. He had fallen into a trap and was being beaten by local villagers. It’s my understanding that in some areas the villagers don’t like elephants because they eat and destroy their crops. The DSWT team was notified of the situation, stopping the attack and rescuing the little fellow. They took the baby back to the orphanage and tried to heal his wounds. He walked in circles for a few weeks, they assumed it was brain damage, but he started showing signs of progress.
I had an early morning meeting and stopped at Central Market to pick up a few things. I was checking my email and got a message that the little guy had died in the night. There I was, standing in the middle of the bakery section and just started crying. I’ll never understand the brutality towards elephants and other wildlife, but I am so thankful for DSWT.
List 3 things people wouldn’t guess about you.
Marnie: I love the Kardashians; obsessed with them. I can eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese by myself. I’ll be the first one in line for tickets when the Sonics come back to Seattle.
Your favorite pastime is…
Marnie: Watching the Kardashians and eating chocolate mint ice cream. Oh, and anything with my family. They are my whole heart.
Who’s your biggest local inspiration?
Marnie: My husband. Everything that we have, he has done on his own. We started when we were both fresh out of high school. Kelly just has a work ethic like nobody I know. He really has the ability to lead people. I’d admire that so much. Out in the community, working for the Navy, building Chinook, he leaves a good trail wherever he goes. Good relationships follow Kelly everywhere.
The other person is Alanna. I don’t know how she’s done it with two small kids at home. The undertaking of creating Vibe, I know, was a mammoth. She is globally smart, has a real big-picture take on things, and I appreciate that about her.
What’s the best restaurant for date night nearby and why?
Marnie: We love Kachai Thai near Central Market. Kelly always orders the Pad Lau, and their calamari is yummy. That’s where we usually go, either for take-out night or spur of the moment. I’m looking forward to the new Crabtree Kitchen + Bar opening. Can’t wait.
You’re stuck on a deserted island. What—or whom—would you bring with you?
Marnie: Pad of paper; helps me kind of clear out my brain. Probably some books. If I’d have to bring food, pasta with some kind of cream sauce and lots of water. I love water. As much as I love mocktails, I just drink a lot of water.
What’s on your sparkle list for the rest of 2019?
Marnie: We’re building a home in eastern Washington and are hoping to get that done by early summer. I want to get the restaurant/bar directory for Marnie Rae fully up and running to provide a great service to the hospitality industry, kind of like Yelp!
Reviews and pictures that will evolve into a sober directory, all in one place. Long-term? I’d love to figure out how to get soft cocktails into green rooms in Hollywood!
How do you feed your curiosity?
Marnie: Talking to people and asking questions.
What got you interested in becoming a Founding40 Member at Vibe?
Marnie: Vibe Coworks founder, Alanna Imbach. I just am so inspired by her and what she’s created within a community in a way that’s organic to what Kitsap is made up of. It’s a large community and fractured sometimes, making it challenging for towns and businesses to connect. She’s all about bringing that together in one cool space.
What’s your favorite holiday drink recipe?
Marnie: The Pear Perfection. Its base is almost like an applesauce, made of pears, ginger, cardamom. You just mix it up with your favorite soda. I like Vanilla Dry Soda. Put the mixings all in the shaker with a little bit of base, rim your glass with a touch of sugar, and it’s sublime.
Meet the author: Vibist Susan O'Meara is a Poulsbo-based freelance writer, editor and journalist with global experience. Back in the day, Susan did event marketing for the electrified Don King, boxing’s bad-boy biz whiz. Then she got roped into writing and producing TV spots for Love Boat: The Next Wave, the ‘90s reboot, and nonfiction programming for Showtime (e.g., Roswell: The Real Story). She's not sure which was more surreal—going with the flow of those Hollywood highs, so to speak, or navigating Nairobi’s magazine scene. Susan has worked in the US and abroad for the likes of Bloomberg Media, Deloitte, Discovery Communications, and the United Nations. She's obsessed with wrangling language and messaging that helps brands, businesses, and individuals to grow and shine. Except when it comes to Don King's hair.