Inspiration for a new business can come at any time. Just ask Fred Berschauer, co-owner of downtown’s Olympia Olive Oil and Vinegars, which opened in January.
Berschauer, 43, who works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, spent last summer in Missouri, responding to tornado damage. He visited the town of Branson on a day off and walked into a business that sold olive oil. Not interested, he was prepared to leave until the owner urged him to try a sample before he did. Berschauer finally agreed to taste some of the store’s olive oil and then spent the next 45 minutes there, captivated by the product.
As soon as he left, he called his business partner and announced that he had found their next business venture. Business partner and now co-owner John Hoehne, 45, was not impressed.
“You’re out of your mind,” said Hoehne, who has spent most of his professional business career in retail and wholesale, but never olive oil.
“This stuff is going to sell,” Berschauer responded.
Convinced they had the beginnings of a business, the longtime friends hammered out a distribution deal with Veronica Foods of Oakland, Calif., to supply the specialty oils and vinegars and opened for business in January at 321 Fourth Ave. E. The day the business opened also was the same day a major snow and ice storm swept through the area. But the business owners knew they were onto something when the storm didn’t slow business and sales rose 30 percent in the first two months.
Business has been steady ever since.
“We haven’t had a day that was without customers,” Berschauer said.
Olympia Olive Oil sells five specialty oils, six extra virgin olive oils, 13 flavored oils and 27 balsamic vinegars, all of which are stored and dispensed from stainless steel containers called a “fusti.” The product is then sold in three bottle sizes: 250 milliliter, 375 milliliter and 750 milliliter.
Prices, for example, are $12 for the 250 ml bottle and $17 for the 375 ml bottle.
One of the most popular and versatile oils so far is the Tuscan herb, but also combining an oil with a balsamic vinegar has proved popular, too, such as the strawberry balsamic vinegar combined with a basil olive oil.
Business has been so good the owners already are considering expansion, possibly to West Seattle, Renton, Puyallup or Sumner.
The owners also might add other products, such as flavored sugars, gourmet salts, pasta and accessories, although the owners want to make sure they don’t lose sight of the core business.
“We don’t want to muddle the brand too much,” Berschauer said.
The business, too, recently got involved with the Olympia Downtown Association’s Girls Night Out, a shopping excursion that exposes downtown businesses to potential new business and raises money for local charities. About 150 people came through the store during the event, Hoehne said.
ODA event and volunteer coordinator Vida Zvirzdys-Farler has tried the store’s oils and vinegars. “They are incredible,” she said.
Olympia Olive Oil and Vinegars will shift to summer hours June 1. The hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
Olympia Olive Oil and Vinegars
Owners: Fred Berschauer and John Hoehne.
Location: 321 Fourth Ave. E.
Years in business: First year, opened in January.
Products: Specialty olive oils and vinegars.
Employees: Two.firstname.lastname@example.org 360-754-5403 theolympian.com/bizblog