In Memoriam: Dale Kamibayashi, May 4, 1951 – November 4, 2023

By Steven Hoffman

Longtime natural products industry veteran and former Presence Marketing team member Dale Kenji Kamibayashi passed away on November 4th, 2023, at age 72. A beloved husband, father and family man, Dale was a valued community member, a friend to all, and a highly respected and admired colleague to many in the natural and organic products industry. Dale was an important member of our community and will be deeply missed.

From his roots in the late 1970s as the co-owner with his wife Lisa of a small natural foods retail store in the mountain town of Nederland, just west of Boulder, to serving as manager and purchasing director for the iconic Alfalfa’s Market, plus leadership roles in Cascadian Farm, Ceres, Rapunzel Organics and other leading companies, Dale was a strong advocate for healthy lifestyles. In 2019, Naturally Boulder honored Dale with the “Industry Leader/Community Champion” award for his vast contributions to the natural products industry and Boulder community.

Read on, below, for some shared memories of Dale Kamibayashi from some industry members and colleagues who knew and loved him best. To read more tributes and to share your memories of Dale, visit Dale’s memorial web page here, and please consider donating to his family’s GoFundMe page.

Lani Kamibayashi (Dale’s daughter, on behalf of the Kamibayashi family)

Our father was the hardest worker I knew, and our family grew up and lived for my dad’s passion. My brother Kenji and I grew up in Alfalfa’s Market; we ran around that store like we owned it. I loved it — I have so many great childhood memories of that store and the people who worked with my parents. Dad instilled our love of food and healthier eating styles that remain with us today. I am so proud of what he did and accomplished within the industry and am so fortunate to be his daughter. My family is overwhelmed with the support and generosity from all. Dale (Dad) was a remarkable leader, husband, and father for us and it’s just not going to be the same without him. We would be forever grateful if you ever had the chance to meet or know our father to keep a memory in your heart, thank you.

Chris Lobo, EVP, Presence Marketing

I worked at Alfalfa’s in the early 90’s, mostly while I was completing grad school at the University of Colorado. During my time at Alfalfas, I worked in the Grocery Department and Dale K. was the Store Manager. For a time, I worked the opening shift, which meant assuring shelves were stocked and faced, and topping off the bulk bins – all before the doors opened.

That is also the period I met Michelle, my wife, who started as a cashier and also was on the opening shift. During the days Michelle and I dated, I would be in the back of the store trying to sweep up about a hundred different beans and grains that had spilled, before the “opening bell.” Michelle would often sneak back and we would quickly make out (I have no idea how dated that term is, but that is how we started a handful of mornings).

One particular morning the GM at that time, who was an uptight sort, caught us and threatened a write up. Well…that write up never came my way. I have no paper trail of who intervened, but it had to have been Dale, who was on site that day and who smilingly turned a blind eye many times to our very human practice.

I honored, respected, and cared a great deal for Dale K. as a colleague…but much more as a warm and wonderful human. RIP Dale.

Mark Retzloff, Cofounder and former CEO and Chair, Alfalfa’s Market and Horizon Organic Dairy, and Cofounder of Greenmont Capital Partners

Like so many, I am shocked and grieving Dale’s passing. Dale was a brother, best friend, confidant, partner, and an example to me. I am heartbroken, as is my wife Terry. However, I want to ensure we honor Dale appropriately. We must all remember and appreciate Dale’s legacy of treating everyone with respect, kindness, and always giving his full attention. His style of leadership should continue to be an inspiration to us all.

I have been fortunate to have known Dale for 43 years. I hired Dale in 1982 to manage our first Alfalfa’s Market store in Boulder. Dale was quickly beloved by all Alfalfa’s employees and hundreds in the community. A hallmark of Dale’s was how well-liked he was in the natural and organic movement and industry as well as on a local, state and national level.

In 2019 when Dale received Naturally Boulder’s “Industry Leader/Community Champion” award, Joan Boykin had this to say about her old friend and coworker: “Dale is a prince among men, a person of inestimable value to the community. He is known for his fair, diplomatic, understated, and generous leadership style and admired by all who know him.”

The last two times I saw Dale was at my 75th birthday in September and at our Naturally Boulder Legacy gathering. He was so Dale – that generous smile, that immediate warmth, and that always caring communication. Dale was a gem and his many life lessons will now shine through the hundreds he has touched.

I write this tribute from Kauai where I am grieving big time. I took a long walk on the beach to consider what is really important in life. Ultimately, we are all just grains of sand, and we each count ourselves tremendously grateful for friends like Dale in our lives. Too briefly, but beautifully gracing our lives.

While many of us will be absorbing this profound loss to our community, I implore each of us to send love and support to Dale’s wife, Lisa, and his children Lani and Kenji. Please consider supporting Dale’s family through their GoFundMe.

Joan Boykin, President, Boykin Consulting, former Executive Director, The Organic Center, and former Director of Marketing for Alfalfa’s Market, Celestial Seasonings, New Hope Network and Fresh Produce Sportswear

Dale was a consummate professional, an expert in retail operations and merchandising, and with a keen eye and mind for marketing, too. Yet, as I reflect on Dale’s contributions to the industry, it wasn’t so much about all he did, but about the manner in which he did it. He was calm and unruffled in every imaginable situation — always finding solutions to vexing problems — and I never heard a harsh word from him. I’ll remember him always for his kindness and warmth and will miss him dearly, as will countless others in our community.

Lyle Davis and Sylvia Tawse, Veterans of Alfalfa’s Market and Founders of the Fresh Ideas Group and Pastures of Plenty

When asked to describe Dale K. (everyone called him that!), Lyle Davis, who worked with Dale for nearly 18 years, said, “Sweet and steady – that was Dale I never once saw him angry or agitated.” Sylvia R. Tawse, who also worked with Dale at Alfalfa’s Markets and remained friends beyond the Alfalfa’s era, remembered working as a Marketing Manager at the Boulder store and being overwhelmed with local nonprofit requests for donations. She went to Dale to seek solutions to a tidal wave of requests. “I’ll always remember Dale’s calm and wise response. He said ‘We just always find a way to say yes to our community.’ This lesson in generosity and inclusion has inspired and guided my decisions for three+ decades.”

Sylvia also remembers working on a ‘Healthy Choices’ newsletter story with Dale to share his family’s New Year’s recipes and traditions. Dale teared up respectfully when unveiling his grandparents story – a challenging time when they were interned up near Fort Collins. The recipe? A most generous New Year’s Eve soup with generous and warming ingredients. Just like Dale.

The last time Sylvia saw Dale K. was at a Naturally Boulder gathering in early October. She is forever thankful to have seen him with his iconic warm smile, and to have a big bear hug with him. All of the Alfalfa’s family and our natural and organic products industry benefitted from Dale K, and we still do. His legacy of managing through calm kindness lives on.

John Hay, Co-founder, Celestial Seasonings

Having worked with Dale on and off over the past 40 years, I can truly say he was a very special human being. He knew all about the natural and organic food industry and had key relationships with most all of the folks in that world. Dale was a people person, and his positive and gracious personality was his greatest strength. He genuinely cared about your product, your business, but most of all about you, and that is why he was so successful throughout his long career.

Blair Kellison, former CEO, Traditional Medicinals*

The natural foods industry’s culture of kindness and respect was set early in its inception by exceptional individuals like Dale. He embodies everything about the culture that makes our industry so special. He had a way of making each of us feel we were his favorite. I am lucky to be one of those people. The enduring nature of the HNF industry’s culture is the greatest testament to Dale’s memory. God speed Dale.

Bill Capsalis, Natural Products Industry Veteran and former Executive Director, Naturally Boulder

Dale K. was a friend of mine … actually he was a friend to everyone he met. I had the pleasure of knowing him for more than 20 years as a member of the Naturally Boulder community. He would always make time for me or any of the new brands I was helping (including one I was running) to review the products and provide feedback and support. He never turned anyone away from his door while at Alfalfas and later at Presence Marketing. He was always kind and positive every time we saw each other. A few years back we recognized Dale with Naturally Boulder’s Community Hero Award, which was well deserved. He will be missed by so many people here and across the industry.

Debbie Wildrick, President, Frey Farms, former Strategic Advisor, Beyond Brands, and former CEO, BAZI Inc.*

To Dale’s family, I was deeply saddened to read today about Dale’s passing. My deepest condolences. Dale worked for me for several months when we were building a source water from Brazil. I was just speaking to my business partner the other day (just a couple of weeks ago). And, he said “do you remember when we all in Naples for a meeting and went to have sushi and Dale taught us how to properly eat with chopsticks?” I later moved to Denver and saw Dale often at events especially Naturally Boulder. A very wonderful man

JJ Rademaekers, Founder, Cocomels*

Dale was such an amazing introduction to this industry for me. When I started Cocomels at the Farmers Market, Dale was the first local buyer to express interest. Not only did he bring Cocomels into the store but he offered his time and insights so that I could understand what I was getting into and how to do it. After that, we’d meet occasionally and I’d ask a barrage of questions and he’d always give me his attention and time. He became a friend and ally in the industry and I always enjoyed bumping into him at events or shows. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. He was a great guy who really showed interest and support for me and my journey. I will always be appreciative. Much love to his family and friends.

Steve Ehli, Natural Products Industry Veteran and former Team Member, Presence Marketing

I met Dale in the late 70’s and we stayed in touch through the decades. I was so pleased we got to spend several years working for the same company at Presence Marketing until I retired at the end of 2021. A kind soul and a consummate professional who dedicated his life’s work in service to grow our industry. Dale will be missed by many. The world needs more like him! My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Kelly Shea, CEO, Shea & Associates, former SVP of Government & Corporate Affairs, Charlotte’s Web and White Wave Foods, and former VP of Sustainability, Sales & Trade Relations for Danone

I often saw Dale outside of his day job. His passion for “giving back” was legendary. His decade-plus volunteering on the Organic Trade Association’s annual campaign, and his passion for Boulder’s Community Food share showed Dale’s big hearted spirit of charity. What a man! The world was better for Dale Kamibayashi in it. I went to university in Japan and spoke a little Japanese. I shared with Dale that I thought his last name must mean “bridge of God.” I imagine him walking that now.

Steve Terre, Natural Industry Veteran and former VP of Sales, Traditional Medicinals

Sayonara Dale-San
We mourn the premature departure of a beautiful human being
His countenance
Was calmness
His bearing beneficent 
His mode passionate and considerate
His smile luminous
His greeting warm and generous of spirit
Godspeed my brother on your next journey
You will be sorely missed
Too soon gone!!!

* Source: Dignity Memorial. Read more shared memories of Dale Kamibayashi by his family, colleagues, friends and community at Dignity Memorial.