Tapping Into A Modern Passion For "the Old World”
Opening a small business was the last thing on the minds of Nancy Smith and her daughter nearly eight years ago when they first discovered the concept of high-quality extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars on tap.
Nancy was on her second retirement from the education field and her daughter, Kimber Schladweiler, was working full time as an attorney in Philadelphia. They were immediately hooked and began to immerse themselves in learning all they could about bringing quality extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars produced using old world traditions to the modern customer.
Within a year, they had opened their first location in West Chester, PA. Now, the pair has three stores in the Philadelphia region and continue to bring their artisanal olive oil and healthy eating to new customers every day.
A native of Kankakee, Ill., Smith and her daughter relocated to Doylestown in 2003, as she neared the end of her career in education and her daughter began law school in Philadelphia. She and her daughter have always had a love for cooking, and initially developed a taste for olive oil because of its health benefits. Not until they began the business, however, did they gain a true appreciation for the variety of quality olive oils available worldwide and the efforts their producers go through to achieve that quality. This appreciation and enjoyment are what they try to pass on to customers.
Smith and her daughter believed from the beginning that the products would be embraced by the modern customer seeking quality, tasteful, healthy, and simple products. As a busy working mother, Kimber understood how little time many had to pull together a meal at the end of the day. "Yet, I could take our products and use them with the ingredients I was already cooking to create something special with little extra effort. The result was a healthy meal loved by the whole family."
They also put a great deal of thought into the location of their stores. "We wanted our stores in the heart of the community," emphasizes Smith. Sometimes, as with their Chestnut Hill location, it took some time to find just the right location, but it was important that the stores be both an accessible and integral part of the community. Smith says her olive oil business resonates with customers spanning all backgrounds and familiarity with olive oil, whether they want to splurge on a high-end bottle for a special occasion, or are seasoned, connoisseurs.
What distinguishes A Taste of Olive from other stores, Smith says, is that customers can sample any of the 80 varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Rows of shiny metallic cylinders, called fusti, line the aisles, each with their own spouts. "We love the idea that you can taste them,” Smith says. “There are great olive oil brands in bottles, and they have flavors, but you don’t know unless you try them. It’s a substantial purchase if you’re not ready."
Much like wine, Smith says olive oil's flavor profile varies on its origin. A Taste of Olive features olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa and South America as well as domestics from California. The store also has a range of complementary products like pastas and vegetable spreads, martini olives, plates and dining accessories as well.
Smith attributes the success of the stores to a simple philosophy – quality products, price options ranging from affordable options to higher end, and a friendly atmosphere to make all customers feel comfortable. "People who like to cook are in general very fun, nice people to talk to,” Smith says. "The way the store is set up is for sharing and talking."