In 2007, Theo and Gaelyn Martin opened Island Soul in Columbia City, Seattle. The restaurant had started off as a barbeque restaurant in the Central District run by Theo’s father in the 1970s. Since then, Island Soul has been a cornerstone in the community, carrying out service-oriented values and serving comforting, flavorful dishes to countless returning locals. While Island Soul continues the legacy of Theo’s father, the Martin family had always dreamed of a way to honor his mother. Thus, the idea for Arleana’s was born.
Theo’s late mother Lula Arleana Martin lived a life of service and left behind a legacy of bringing communities together. Theo spent a large portion of his childhood in hospitals and moving to different foster homes that didn’t know how to accommodate his many allergies. When he was seven, his mother and father adopted him from the foster care system after he had gone through fourteen other homes. Because his mother was a registered nurse, a vegan, and a restaurant owner she knew how to prepare healthy meals that kept him out of hospitals, and she cooked them to be tasty enough for a kid. She provided Theo a sense of belonging.
Lula Arleana Martin always said that food is about community, friends, and family. It should fill the soul, not just your belly. Known in her community as ‘Mama Martin’ she was full of positivity and a heart for helping others. She started an early education center (that is still open today) and established a homeless breakfast program in our church. Along with other children in our church’s congregation, Theo attended a private school in Kirkland from first through eighth grades. Decades later, he fittingly returns to Kirkland to open Arleana’s in memory of his mother.
Today, Arleana’s is where the values of Lula Arleana Martin live on. It’s a place to explore creative, seasonal flavors. To explore creative seasonal flavors. To feel cared for.