Extending an olive oil branch

First Toronto shop opens for Montreal-based specialty retailer

Olive oil is a lot like wine.

Some of the best wines and olive oils come from the Mediterranean. Both are purchased in the same type of bottle and both are often sampled and discussed by those with discriminating tastes.

Now a trio of ladies hope they’ve created a place for Toronto’s olive oil connoisseurs to call home.

Already a success in Montreal, specialty olive oil store Olive & Olives recently opened up their first Toronto location at 779 Queen St. East.

For Claudia Pharand, the company’s co-founder, her love affair with the succulent substance began with a trip to Europe.

“I fell into olive oil like some people fall into wine,” said Pharand. “I was travelling in Spain and I was meeting some producers and I came back with the idea to open a store.”

Pharand and her business partner Danièle Beauchamp opened their first location in Montreal in 2003, but until late this spring, had yet to go out of province.

“We have already five stores in Montreal and the Montreal region and we thought Toronto was ready for an Olive & Olives store,” Pharand said. “We’re doing very well, we’re very excited and hopefully we’ll grow as much in Toronto as we did in Montreal.”

The newest branch officially opened on June 8. The shop’s local owner Mia Sturup grew up in her family’s retail business but later spent 25 years as an assistant costume director in the film industry. After meeting Beauchamp at a wedding she eventually found her way back to the retail business.

“When I was approached by Claudia and Danièle I thought well this could be my next career,” said Sturup. “When I saw their stores in Montreal I was very impressed with the company and here we are.”

The new locale plays soft jazz and includes a faux tree intended to make clients feel as if they are in an olive grove. The store supplies customers with all things olive from oils and pastes to olives themselves.

Most of the oils come from Spain although they carry some from France and other regions. Oil prices range from $8–56 per bottle. Pharand said 90 percent of their stock is exclusive to Olive & Olives, which only carries extra virgin olive oil.

“Extra virgin olive oil is the best quality of olive oil you can find,” Pharand said. “It’s the product that contains all the antioxidants and the vitamin Es.”

Pharand said her favourite treat is olive oil on toast while Sturup said she prefers it on top of chocolate ice cream with a bit of salt. Both maintain that olive oil is good for you, despite what some think.

“For a long time people thought maybe olive oil was fattening and was not very healthy for you but it has proved to be quite the opposite,” Sturup said.

Sturup said choosing Queen Street East for her store was an easy decision due to an abundance of other specialty food stores in the area.

“The development I’ve seen in the Riverside area has been really, really great and it’s become a great food neighbourhood,” she said. “There’s a cheese shop, there’s a butcher, there’s a fish store, there’s different bakeries and now there’s Olive & Olives, and everyone complements one another.”

Even more important for her, she said all of those foods taste great with olive oil.

About this article:

By: Tristan Carter
Posted: Jul 18 2011 6:28 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto