It’s a good story.
While visiting friends in the Niagara area we stumbled across an olive oil tasting bar and my first thought was, “What are we doing here, tasting olive oil and balsamic vinegar, when we could be at one of so many wineries?” I rolled my eyes and followed my friends inside.
About 30 minutes later, after discovering some wonderfully FRESH extra virgin olive oil, the likes of which I had never tasted before, and inventing some delicious pairings with which I could take my salads, meat, vegetables and more to new and healthy heights, we hastened to a local winery where the olive oil shop owner was sampling her wares alongside a cheese company. I talked to her about opening our own shop in the heart of Barrie – a foodie town if ever there was one!
It’s peculiar how you can spend so many years of your adult life building a successful career – in my case that was a media career – only to stumble into a passion and second career by accident. I am not a chef or a cook. I have not always been the healthiest or most thoughtful eater. My only retail experience was working at a toy store and a coin and stamp shop while studying in University. That Christmas I gifted oil and vinegar from that shop to many colleagues, friends and family, excited about the prospect of having my own shop one day!
I thought about opening that shop for more than a year. Who quits the big Toronto job it took a 28-year career to earn to open a specialty food store? I would be the silent owner and hire a manager, I thought. But that seemed risky. And then, in January of 2015 my mother, who was living in our home, had a fall and everything changed. I needed to be available for daily needs and medical appointments and I also knew that I wanted to spend more time with her. I knew that I needed to be closer to home and more devoted to her. So I quit my job.
I never went back to that media job.
We opened that first shop in Downtown Barrie in April of 2015, pictured. I am certain that many people thought the idea was a crazy one and lamented that we probably wouldn’t make it, like so many other start up retailers. I am convinced that folks drove by our first sign and thought, “Really? A whole store for olive oil?” But here we are over 7 years later – after winning New Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year and the Arch Brown Entrepreneur Award of Excellence from the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Partner of the Year from Tourism Barrie and being voted Barrie’s Favourite Specialty and Gourmet Food Store for the last seven years in the Barrie Advance Readers’ Choice Awards. We have opened 4 shops now – Downtown Barrie, South Barrie, Newmarket and Midland, have had a Pop-Up Shop at Georgian Mall for 4 years, and developed a successful website that ships across Canada. We are proud of what we have built – our whole team is. We were fortunate to have hired a passionate team of foodies who care about and work the business like it’s their own. And it was that team who gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my mom during the last years of her life.
And we all worked to grow the business to be so much more than selling bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We carry a full line of high-end gourmet foods for entertaining or sharing with friends and family. We have gorgeous gift baskets and boxes, as well as meal & charcuterie kits, annual subscription boxes, recipe books, charcuterie boards, porcelain dipping plates, spouts and more. We have developed hundreds of our own recipes to help our clients learn how to use oil and vinegar because, let’s face it, even though olive oil and balsamic vinegar have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, North Americans are not as accustomed to using it as Europeans are.
Before the Pandemic we also hosted Private Tasting Parties where you and your and friends or colleagues or book/wine/social club spend 90 minutes eating, drinking and learning how to use oil & vinegar in an interactive and FUN environment – something different to do! We are very much looking forward to starting those parties and cooking workshops again soon!
We customize corporate gifts for companies and individuals, have a fundraising alternative to cookie dough and chocolate bars, and create wedding and party favours.
And we love to work with other local companies – developing a line of skin care using our olive oil, balsamic and olive oil infused chocolate bars, and introducing a line of jellies and bread dippers with our name on them. We are on the hunt for more of these sorts of opportunities.
We LOVE when you visit our local shops and thank you for being a part of our story!
Photo – First shop in Downtown Barrie, April 2015