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September 7, 2009

New “Olive Bar” in Walnut Creek: Are there enough fancy olive oil lovers around to sustain this business?

I stopped in the other day at We Olive, the new shop on North Main Street that sells products made from olives, including an extensive selection of artisan olive oils that you can taste at their bar.

It’s a pretty shop, and that polished wood bar is long and lined with all varieties--or, as you say in WineSpeak, varietals?--of olive oils. These olive oils have been made in California and are part of a proud tradition that goes back to Spanish settlers, say the We Olive folks. These oils come flavored with different flavors and aromas--rosemary, lemon, and tangerine. The friendly employee behind the bar said that the Pasolivo tangerine blend—at $16 for 200 ml--is great to use in brownies.

The shop also sells olives that are stuffed with blue cheese and almonds, or graced with hints of orange and fennel or bay leaf and garlic. And, the shop sells tapenades, pesto, balsamic vinegars, cookbooks, and even olive-based skin-care and bath products.

Back to olive oils: We Olive says it has brought together the more than 200 producers across California.
At We Olive, you spend $34.50 for a sleek blue bottle of extra virgin, 100-percent estate grown, 100-percent organic Olivas de Oro Mission Blue, made in Paso Robles. This product is a “mild, unfiltered oil with a fruity olive aroma, with some herbaceous tones.”

As I write this, I’m getting hungry, and craving one of those blue-cheese stuffed olives, or a hunk of baguette that I can dip in olive oil from that $34.50 bottle.

At the same time, I’m wondering how well this store will do. We Olive is a franchise, originating from Paso Robles, the heart of the Central Coast’s Wine Country. This Walnut Creek location, at 1364 North Main Street, is We Olive’s seventh store. The company, according to its website, has plans to expand its franchise to up to 400 stores nationwide.

When a co-worker and I first heard about the opening of this olive bar, we were skeptical. You mean, like a wine bar? Both of us said, sure, we like to go to restaurants that serve hunks of delicious fresh bread, which you dip into small bowls of exquisite olive oil. We also really like noshing on fancy olives. But would we actually go into a shop and taste different olive oils?
I don't know.

However, I am tempted to go back to buy its We Olive brand of olive oil in bulk—for $1 per ounce. That’s the kind of oil I might use in a special vinaigrette for a salad, or for dipping bread.

I’d love to hear from people in the community who are more discerning about flavors and cooking than me, who are delighted that such a shop has come to our community.

Still, I wonder if, in this economy, whether people are going to want to spend money on specialty olive oils. Even in the way they would spend on the best coffee or the best wine.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

In this economy? I give it 8-10 months. A year tops.

WCbowlingmom said...

They probably got a good deal on a lease since there is so much available space downtown.

I agree that this economy makes it seem like not a great time to be opening a store like this, but I am always amazed at what stores survive and don't survive in WC. It seems like the more frivolous the store, the longer it is around.

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom,
You just put out a nice article on slow food. Good olives and olive oils are the perfect examples of the ingredients we could use every day that exemplify the health benefits of good food.
I went to an olive oil tasting in Glen Ellen in Sonoma County recently and was impressed by the variety of products. It really helped me to decide which olive oil fit my taste. I found some aged balsamic vinegar also that has been a real hit at the family table. Although some of these items seem expensive compared to mass market products, the intensity of flavor lets us use less oil (fewer calories) and have a better experience.
Thanks for letting your readers know about this new store downtown.

Big Al said...

I guess anything is possible... heck, there's a huge new vitamin store on the corner of Mt Diablo and Locust. Who will last longer? I say the Olive Bar. I hear that "Lettuce" is doing quite well so far. They also got a great deal on their lease. It was cheaper than what they were paying in Antioch.

DumbAsBricks said...

Good Olive Oils, Vinagrettes, roasted olives, cheeses, breads, and fresh herbs would be a hit.

Anonymous said...

Big Al I have been very impressed by Lettuce.

Anonymous said...

COOC organic olive oil is the only way to be sure that it does not contain walnut oil, etc...

I think once I have a job, it will stay in business.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a risky time in the economy to open such a business, but I hope it's a hit. One of the things that will probably help this business: More people are eating in now, rather than dining out. So they might be more apt to take a small percentage of their old dining budget and spend it on some pricey olive oil to use in their home cooking. That could be the rationale behind opening now.

Anonymous said...

People in Walnut Creek are such weirdos.

Anonymous said...

Follow your dream. If your dream is to open an olive store, then go for it. I'm buying olive oil at Trader Joe's for the forseeable future but I'm glad to see a nice business taking up the space rather than an empty storefront. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I happened upon this place last weekend. Really a nice shop. They led us through a tasting of the bulk olive oils. Very informative. We purchased some of the bulk oils as gifts for some friends.
This would be a great gift for a dinner party host.

We went to the container store and bought some smaller bottles for are own use. We'll fill them up occasionally.

I recommend the place.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, a boutique olive oil would make a nice hostess gift. Thanks for the idea.

Anonymous said...

When the U.S. dollar is replaced as the reserve currency, the U.S. cannot pay for imports of goods, and hyperinflation hits, nobody will be buying what this shop is selling.

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Anonymous said...

I just discovered an olive oil tasting bar in Santa Cruz. I took my husband in, who really didn't want to go. We had a great time, learned a lot about olive oil and left with 2 bottles of oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. I hope they do a great business and I will shop there.

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