Marie Chehade Catrib

GRAND RAPIDS – Marie Chehade Catrib, restauranteur, mother, sister and dear friend to all she knew, died Wednesday evening, June 5, 2013, at the Hauenstein Center at St. Mary’s Hospital. She was 65.

Marie was born Jan. 5, 1948, in the village of Kousba in the northern state of El Koura, Lebanon. She was the second oldest of five siblings born to Hanna Chehade, her father, who worked for the IPC Petroleum Company and her mother, Hilda Sarraf Chehade, a homemaker who kept Marie’s kitchen messes at bay during her childhood.

Marie married Alfredo Catrib in Lebanon in 1970 and moved to Flint, Mich. shortly afterwards. She learned English by watching soap operas and took a cashier job at the grocery store her husband owned.

Marie’s first son, Moussa Catrib, was born on Jan. 5, 1973 in Flint. A few years later, Marie and Alfredo heard of a grocery store for sale in L’Anse and took the chance to move from Flint and make a life in the Upper Peninsula. The same year, Marie gave birth to her second son, Fouad Catrib on Sept. 13, 1976 in L’Anse.

Many years later, Marie had an idea to make baklava and pita bread to sell to Jim Vencato in Houghton and many folks in L’Anse. People loved her creations and she realized this was her chance to become an entrepreneur. After being denied for a loan, William Najjar, the godfather to her boys loaned her start-up funds and she opened Marie’s Deli on Sept. 13, 1985 in Houghton.

The next few years saw her open a second location in Marquette, which she closed after her separation from her husband. After three expansions to the deli in Houghton, she continued to have much success and built her reputation as a businesswoman and friend.

In 2005, Marie sold her business to her manager, Victoria Williams who continues to run it as Victoria’s Kitchen.

With a little intuition and guts, she decided to enroll in the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt. She met some wonderful people there, but after one year, she decided that school didn’t suit her.

Over the next few years, she worked at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C., and at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in the position of head baker. During her time in Green Bay, she enjoyed time at her lake house in the Keweenaw and visiting with her good friend, Cathy in Kenosha, Wis.

After two years with the University, she wanted to work for herself again and started scouting locations for a new restaurant. She entertained Black Mountain, N.C., and Madison, Wis., as possibilities, but they didn’t work out as she wished. Then her son, Fouad, suggested she check out the city that had been his home for a number of years, Grand Rapids. He set up a meeting with Guy Bazzani, who suggested Marie consider his new development, The East Hills Center of the Universe. After a year of planning and construction and the blessing of so many neighbors, Marie Catrib’s of Grand Rapids opened the day after Thanksgiving, 2005.

It was a hit from the start. She was in her element greeting new friends and old and always finding time to entertain a child. The restaurant soon expanded and the staff grew from 12 in 2005 to 54 today. The restaurant brought joy and therapy to her, especially after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008. She continued to be a guiding force for the rest of her time on this earth.

Marie is survived by her sons, Moussa and Fouad Catrib; son-in-law, Schlomo Steel; her siblings, Henry, Elie, George, Katar and Amal Chehade; her wonderful dog, Sadie; cats, Bella and Blanca; her restaurant family and scores of friends.

In keeping with Marie’s wishes, no services will be held. Instead, the restaurant has become a place for remembering her as people share stories and hugs over delicious food. There is no more fitting memorial. Her sons, Moussa and Fouad will keep her legacy moving forward in that spirit.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the Helen Devos Childrens Hospital Foundation.

The family is being served by Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Service, Grand Rapids.