Last week I visited “The City,” found a distinctive store, and fell in love. Olivia’s Oils and Vinegar is a new store at Orchard Park Shopping Centre in Kelowna, BC, modelled after on-farm olive oil shops in California. I’ve never experienced anything like it. You walk into the store and there are rows upon rows of stainless steel kegs, all filled with quality olive oil or with balsamic vinegar. But these are not your Grocery store oil and vinegar. Each shiny stainless steel keg holds an amazing secret.
You walk into an atmosphere of warm lights, wooden floors and shiny steel and coloured glass every where. It is clean and inviting. The 3 sales staff, Lana, Lana-Jean, and Charisse welcomed my husband, Robin and I into the store. It felt like they were welcoming us into their home — not their place of work. They were all very friendly, and approachable, but not in our face at all. Lana-Jean invited us to sample anything that caught our eye, demonstrating how to take a square of french bread with the tongs from the closed jar on the counter and how to pour the sample of olive oil or balsamic vinegar from the tap into a small plastic cup. Dipping the bread into the cup, we were able to sample both oils and vinegars. Once we knew what to do, she stepped back and left us alone with over 100 flavours of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Some of the olive oils were from different varieties of olives, some even had dates to show both their provenance and their vintage. This being my very first experience in tasting olive oil, my eyes were opened to find out that olive oil goes beyond Virgin Olive Oil, Olive Oil, and pomace. Not being a connoisseur of olives yet, I gravitated toward the flavoured olive oils — basil, garlic, chipotle, Blood Orange, to name only a few of the incredible varieties at the store. Along with flavoured olive oil there was flavoured balsamic vinegars — some so rich and sweet you could pour them over ice cream, I kid you not!
The vinegar that caught my eye first was dark chocolate balsamic. I am spoiled for life! What an amazing flavour! First a sweet dense balsamic taste on your tongue and then a punch at the roof of your mouth of dark, sweet chocolate. Sold! I didn’t need to try any other vinegars after that — I might have bought a bottle of every flavour in the store. But I plan to visit Olivia’s Oils and Vinegars again.
Then I went looking for a flavoured olive oil to pair with the chocolate balsamic — Christmas is coming, right? Blood Orange infused olive oil was my pick, although the walnut oil was very tempting.
I haven’t had so much fun shopping in decades, truly. How often do you walk into a store, that’s not a grocery store or a drug store, and not have to worry about seeing your own body, in a mirror. And then they invite you to taste the most amazing flavours — flavours that delight and wake up your taste buds, too. And instead of sales staff they have hostesses. Seriously, I felt like I was the most pampered guest not a prospective customer. Every retail business needs to learn this secret — it would transform the economy! And after all that fun, you still get to take the prize home with you. Free taste testing and instant gratification are winning sales strategies that every homestead business needs to pay attention to.
So why am I telling you about this amazing retail store in Kelowna, BC, Canada when most of you live almost any where but here? Well first, if you are ever in Kelowna, you need to bless yourself by putting a visit to Olivia’s on your itinerary.
But even if you never visit Olivia’s in person this is a fantastic model for an on-farm store, for anyone who lives in an area that is conducive to growing Olives and wine grapes — California, Southern Oregon, Australia, Southern Europe. And the first class service is also worth emulating. When we made our purchase of the two bottles — dark chocolate balsamic vinegar and blood-orange infused olive oil, Charisse, who was behind the till, asked if it was for a gift. Well the bottles were for me, but they are going under the tree until Christmas Morning. A gift of course! “Hostess gift, Christmas gift, or another occasion?” Charisse asked.
“Christmas,” I replied.
“Oh, good, I love wrapping gifts.” and Charisse immediately wrapped the two bottles in green and red tissue paper, placed them in an attractive gift bag and put a curly ribbon on the handle. No extra charge.
As we were walking out, suddenly I had an urge. This was such an amazing experience I knew that you would be delighted to read about this on my blog and I needed pictures. So I dragged my poor husband back into the store and asked if I could take pictures. I explained that I was a blogger (I’ve never said that to anyone before.) and that I had such an amazing experience in Olivia’s that I wanted to tell my community about it. Would they mind? “Please do. Here’s our card. The website is on it.” Lana said.
And then I heard the story. Olivia’s just opened at Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna on November 10th. Its a brand new baby, just a few weeks old. Owned by Sherry Newman, the store is the only one like it in Canada, or anywhere. It is not a chain nor a franchise, yet. This is a store with amazing courage and a rare customer-centric business model. Surely if you could package that customer experience into a box, you’d have a winning business. I hope this store has years and years of success. I’m looking forward to buying many more bottles of quality olive oil and flavoured balsamic vinegars over a long relationship. Maybe next time I’ll try the cranberry-pear-white-balsamic vinegar with the lemon infused olive oil, or the Montreal maple balsamic vinegar with the walnut oil.
Olivia’s Oils & Vinegars has a Facebook page. Their website right now is just a “business card”. But I hope to see an online shopping cart that offers their awesome and distinctive oils and vinegars to a wider audience.
If you are visiting the Kelowna area you can find Olivia’s at Orchard Park Shopping Centre, (2271 Harvey Ave.) #664 or call for more Olivia’s for information – 1-778-484-7255.
Sherry Newman and staff, Congratulations on your new venture. I wish you a very, prosperous Christmas and 2013.