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By Catherine Kenwell

To commemorate Barrie Olive Oil’s third anniversary this week, we sat down with owner Denise Tucker to discuss her business and customer service philosophy, the growth of the store, and what lies next.

Three years ago you opened Barrie Olive Oil in Downtown Barrie. What’s the biggest thing you didn’t expect to happen that did?

Denise: Three years ago I thought we were opening a little olive oil shop. I didn’t expect that we would open a store less than one year later. Thanks to our customers, who valued the experience and the product quality we offered, we were able to expand in size, product line and employee numbers. We even opened Christmas pop-up shops in Georgian Mall and Upper Canada mall. As we look forward to the opening of our third permanent location in Newmarket this fall, we continue to build on that value and strong culture.

Since opening, the store has won a number of awards and accolades. Why do you think Barrie Olive Oil is so successful?

Denise: If awards are a measure of success, then Barrie Olive Oil has certainly achieved a high level of achievement. In the past three years, we’ve garnered awards for Favourite Specialty Food Store, Favourite Gourmet Food Store, New Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year, and Tourism Promotion Partner of the Year. We are thankful and humbled and honoured by any recognition. What really makes Barrie Olive Oil a successful business is the quality products we serve, the unique retail concept, and the team who lead our growth with their passion and customer focus.

You’ve said that Barrie Olive Oil is “locally-minded”. What do you mean by that, and how does BOO work within its communities?

Denise: Local is a word that gets thrown around quite a bit. Our definition of local means that we are a Barrie-area owned and independently operated business that employs Barrie and area residents, collaborates with other local like-minded businesses for mutual benefit, and supports local initiatives that matter to our team and our clients and our community.

We have a terrific opportunity to make a difference in the community whether that means supporting local charities, in-kind donations for fundraisers or volunteering with a helping hand.  We can’t possibly support every need but it’s important that we do as much as we can to support local causes that matter to our team and our clients.

Barrie Olive Oil is recognized for its customer service. What does customer service mean to you, and how have you been able to achieve and maintain your customer service philosophy, and ensure a fun and educational environment?

Denise: When you open a new retail business, it’s because it started as a dream. That dream becomes reality and you become aware that your great idea needs to be effectively marketed to convince others of the same. Perhaps the most difficult thing is to entice people to walk through the door so when you walk in it’s a BIG deal for us. It really matters to us that you walked through our door and our level of service needs to reflect that. Expect to be treated with respect and thankfulness. We think of our customers in our shops as we would guests in our homes. Our door is open, and clients will be welcomed as new friends or returning friends and relatives. You’re part of our family when you visit.

We work to provide our guests with the level of attention that they feel comfortable with. If you want to chat with us about the way olive oil is made or what we would suggest you use to prepare the perfect dish, that’s great. If you want to walk around and experience things independently, you’re very welcome to. We always try to think like our customers. As a result, the type of service each customer receives is custom-tailored to that customer. We welcome you and we want you to feel comfortable in our ‘home’! Our environment is fun because we feel like we’re entertaining friends at home, and it’s educational because we learn as much as we teach!

Describe the ‘AHA!’ moment, when a customer realizes how different our products are?

Denise: Our tagline—Delicious, Healthy, Simple—came from our customers. Sometimes people come into the shop and know exactly what they’re looking for. More often, people come in because they’re curious or they’ve heard about our products. There’s that moment when they have their first taste—and we see their immediate physical reaction that they are tasting something delicious. Often that’s a surprise, because most of the mass-market oils and balsamics aren’t that delicious or flavourful. When we explain that the products are also all-natural and healthy, our clients are pleasantly surprised. And because we have a passionate team who love what they do, clients will leave knowing simple ways to incorporate our oils and balsamics into their lives.

What’s in store for the next three years?

Denise: Barrie Olive Oil will expand to add a Newmarket Olive Oil shop in the fall of 2018. We plan to introduce small boutique locations in communities surrounding Barrie, in shops that have already established a loyal clientele and culture of high quality products and customer service. We will listen to customers and grow the business according to their needs, with agility and perspective. That future may include cooking classes, exclusive tasting events, seminars with chefs and naturopathic doctors and nutritionists, published recipes, enhanced pantry selections and more! We love hearing what you think!

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