Before becoming the iconic restaurant chain Café Yumm!, founder Mark Beauchamp still remembers the delight of customers who tried the signature sauce created by his wife and co-owner of the restaurant, Mary Ann Beauchamp.
“I was taking people to lunch at the Wild Rose Café & Deli, and I was like, ‘Look at this,’ and we’d see Mary Ann giving someone a sample, and the guest reaction was always, ‘Yum, what. ‘is it? ”
That “yum” reaction ultimately led to the name of their company, which now has more than 20 locations in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington.
Mary Ann died on July 26 at the age of 71. In an interview with The Register-Guard, her husband explained how she shaped the business through her eclectic cuisine, friendly personality and company slogan to “feed humanity and the world”.
“She made me feel like the only other person in the room,” said Marne Dunder, director of marketing and communications for Café Yumm!
The company declined to discuss the circumstances of his death, but said it was unexpected and sudden.
Connecting different cultures
Mary Ann has lived in many countries and absorbed each other’s food culture as she grew up.
She was born in Japan in 1950 to a Japanese mother and an American father in the military, and later moved to Italy, California and North Carolina, before her father retired and they end up in Delta Junction, Alaska in 1960.
Mary Ann attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and met Mark in 1972 while there.
She was fascinated by local cuisine in the many places she lived, and that helped influence her future cooking, her husband said.
While in elementary school in Alaska, she sometimes traded her white bread and bologna sandwiches with Native American students for their smoked salmon on whole wheat.
His various inspirations defined what made the cuisine of Café Yumm! special,” said Mark.
“You can tell there’s an influence there, but it was that mix of colors and flavors and textures that she was sensitive to and brought it to people in a format where they were saying, ‘I’ve never tasted anything like that'” he said. “His food brain would go places that others might not try or think of for themselves.”
After she, Mark and their daughter moved to Eugene in 1986, the two opened the Wild Rose Café & Deli and she began experimenting with combining different ingredients in a blender to make a sauce, Mark said.
For nearly a year, Mary Ann worked and refined what was then called “the sauce,” and it quickly became an integral part of their business. Years later, “Yummy! Sauce” has become a favorite among Eugenians and beyond.
Mark then opened an organic juice bar in Eugene which he says didn’t have much success, so the couple decided to add Mary Ann’s rice and bean dish with the special sauce, and decided to rename the juice bar Café Yumm!
The change was a success, and the couple closed the juice bar and turned the Wild Rose space into a larger restaurant for Café Yumm! The first site opened in 1997.
In addition to key decisions and features for restaurants, such as having live plants indoors, Mark said Mary Ann’s kind personality also had a lifelong impact on the business and how they treated customers.
She was “the nicest, warmest, friendliest person,” Mark said, and someone who could strike up a conversation with anyone.
“She was dragging them into this discussion, and it was almost hypnotic, especially with the women,” Mark said. “She was friendly to everyone, and women just stared at her and adored her.”
The company’s goal to “feed” the world was also created by her, and Mark said they try to teach employees to express similar kindness.
“She said that was what she wanted to do. She wanted to feed people,” Mark said. “And she wanted to grow it as big as possible.”
A tribute to Mary Ann by the company is online at cafeyumm.com/maryann and includes the opportunity to submit favorite Mary Ann memories at cafe-yumm.contact-us.app.
— Louis Krauss, the registrar, [email protected]