Our Optimum Wellness journey has been a labor of love, celebrating not just food, but family, friends, relationship, Spirit, and connection. James and Debra met in 1992 when they were both students at National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon.
James was a strict vegan at the time and Debra was a lacto-ovo vegetarian who converted to vegan soon after she and James started dating. Their whirlwind romance centered around school and food. They were either studying or eating or talking about studying and eating. Following their vegan wedding in 1993 they entered into a business relationship with a close friend who was opening a vegan restaurant. James and Debra went in as (sweat equity) partners and the “Common Sense Café” was born. Though short-lived, the Common Sense Café launched our baked goods front and center. Every night James and Debra would bake muffins, cookies, cakes or something scrumptious for the restaurant. One of them would read study notes aloud while the other one whittled away in the kitchen. At the time they were renting a house on 17 fabulous, lush acres in Corbett, Oregon, about thirty minutes drive to Portland in an old Volkswagon bus. It was a great kitchen because the windows looked out into the forest. Wild blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, nettles and more grew on the property. They harvested most of the summer and the wildflowers were also spectacular. The Common Sense Café closed its doors within a year of opening them. Perhaps the whole concept was a bit ahead of its time. Still their love of natural foods, baking and cooking continued and as their diet evolved and expanded so did their experimenting in the kitchen.
Buying organic produce and natural products has always been a top priority for James and Debra. Even as students with little to no money to spare, this was not an area where they were willing to compromise. As their dietary choices began to expand and include some animal products they continued to choose organic, sustainably-raised, and free-range, natural products. They can’t say enough about the importance of eating this way and living this way. Green household items from dishwashing liquid to toilet paper to laundry detergent and natural toothpastes are a given in the Rouse house.
Fast forward several years and two children and the Rouses have had a successful radio show and in 1999 launched the Optimum Wellness program in Denver. Optimum Wellness is a program inspired out of the desire to bring a message of positivity to the community. In the shadow of the Columbine tragedy that hit very close to home on every level, James and one of his best friends Dan, created the idea of partnering the program with television, news, and grocery to bring inspiring messages of hope, courage, healthy living and optimum wellness to the mainstream. Now over a decade and 100 vignettes later, the Optimum Wellness program continues to thrive.
In 2005 James and Debra launched the first edition of Optimum Wellness magazine. In continuous bi-monthly publication ever since and circulation of over 350,000, they hope to expand into more markets across the country in the near future.
Outside of their busy business lives, James and Debra are very blessed with two amazing daughters, Dakota and Elli. They enjoy playing together, hiking, skiing, biking, swimming, cooking, and just being together as a family. Life is about balance, after all.