Season 3 Episode 8

Rose Malindretos

This Week's Guest:

Rose Malindretos

O&Co. Marketing Director

Rose Malindretos is the director of marketing for Oliviers & Company (also known as O&Co.) the worldwide purveyor of Mediterranean specialty foods. Rose spoke with Olive Oil Times publisher Curtis Cord about olive oil retailing in New York’s Grand Central Station, where her team has just minutes to introduce shoppers to the tastes of high-quality olive oils.

Curtis CordLast year, Oliviers and Company also known as O&CO, celebrated its 20th anniversary. The founders, a group of photographers, were inspired by the passion of people who made olive oil throughout the Mediterranean. I think a lot of our listeners can relate to that source of inspiration and many of you are that source of inspiration for us. I might’ve been among the earliest customers at O&CO’s first store on Paris’s Ile Saint-Louis in 1998 when it opened there. Now there are 90 O&CO shops around the world, from Hong Kong to New York, including, in one of my favorite places in the world, Grand Central Station. Rose Malindretos has been with O&CO for much of its journey as the Director of Marketing. I have what seems to be an annual privilege to present Rose with awards at the New York International Olive Oil Competition, most recently two gold awards for the Monva Picual from Spain and the Azienda Agricola Mascio blend from Italy.

And it’s in New York that we find Rose today. Good morning, Rose.

Rose MalindretosGood morning, Curtis. Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor.

Curtis CordI managed to sneak our talk in today just before you head to Crete, I understand, for a well-deserved break.

Rose MalindretosYes. I long for that trip ever year. I’m going back to my roots so to speak. It’s apropos that we have this call to get me even more excited about going back.

Curtis CordWere you born there?

Rose MalindretosI wasn’t, but both of my parents are from Crete. They wanted to … I was born in the U.S., but spent every summer for three months since I was born on the island of Crete, so it really is a home away from home. Most of my family is there, so it’s quite a special connection to me and I’m honored to be able to straddle two cultures.

Curtis CordWhere do you stay when you’re there?

Rose MalindretosWe actually … It’s funny, because we have a tourist resort in Crete in Chania, in the Chania region. That’s what inspired my love for all things olive oil because my father was an entrepreneur and built … He was initially going to be build a summer place for us and decided, “Hmm, how can I entice my children to keep coming back here?” As a result, he made it into a business and developed a beautiful resort with a pool nestled amongst the olive groves with view overlooking the sea. It’s quite a magical place and he was right, can’t keep us away from it.

Curtis CordWhat’s the name of it?

Rose MalindretosIt’s Yiannis Retreat. Right now it’s more friends and family, so if you give me a call I can make arrangements, but it’s very much a local experience and my dad’s there all the time. He’ll take people to his friend who’s make the local raki. At that time of the year he’s taken people to his friend the cheese monger, who’s making cheese. For him that’s just what each day brings, but for people visiting it’s one of the most memorable things about their trip to Crete. It’s just something authentic and real about being in such a unique, beautiful place. The olive trees that surround … My dad is so proud. He walks people around the olive trees and offers them the olive that he’s brined himself. When I was little I helped him plant 30 olive trees, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching those olive trees and help him nurture them and I didn’t appreciate what it was, especially when I was little and I bit into my first olive off the tree. It was a never … Left a lasting impression on my mind.

Crete, again, growing up as a kid there, it was a great way to spend summers and be really a part of the culture that so defines who I am and makes me appreciate … I always say when I’m in New York I’m a Greek, and when I’m in Greece I’m a New Yorker, because in New York you want to just slow things down, so I’m like, “Okay, everyone just take a deep breath.” The Greek side comes out. When I’m in Crete, I’m like, “Okay guys, let’s get cracking. Let’s go do something.” It’s very funny. I think that balance is what’s so essential in defining myself and how I view life basically. That might be a little too deep for the question, but here we are. Crete is something that … From the Cretan diet to the simplicity of life there … Going back to the olive tree, I remember when I was little my dad took me to one of the oldest olive trees ever. It was over 2,000 years old in Kissamos and it was just in the middle of this little village and I couldn’t believe it.

I climbed inside it. It was hollow, but it was still bearing fruit. It was gnarled and it really left an impression with me. The fact that it was there for thousands of years, it really instilled true appreciation for the olive tree. I think that formed the foundation for developing my interest … It’s a separate funny story of how I got to where I am now, but my foundations in Crete definitely helped foster that love for an age-old tradition that wasn’t given the attention it deserves for sure.

Curtis CordFirst of all, nothing’s too deep for this conversation. I’m with you 100%. I’ve experienced the Chania experience. I also went around with locals and drank the local drink and ate the local cheese and looked at the old trees. I visited a thousands-year-old tree in Chania. Might’ve been the same one. But do tell us now how then you got started with O&CO.

Rose MalindretosI’ll make a long history … I’ll try to wrap it up. Previous to O&CO, my previous profession was in publishing, so I was at a big publishing firm in Boston and I was marketing my family’s olive oil actually because that was after watching the trees I planted harvest their first batch of olive oil. I was so connected to the land and the experience of being at the mill and having that fresh, warm bread and dipping the corner piece into that oil that first comes out of the spot that’s almost too strong to even taste, but I just couldn’t resist it. I was like, “Wow, this is just incredible.” I had some of that oil shipped to me in Boston and I actually, with one of my colleagues, who was a designer, created a label, we bottled them up, and we had … There was a type of craft fair at the publishing company which had thousands of employees, so I made a little stand, I had my Greek flag going, I had a little Greek music playing, and I had my bottle of olive oil. I was offering people a taste.

I didn’t have any grand plans in mind, I just thought, “Gosh, people need to try this.” Afterwards, while the first people were coming through, they were like, “Oh, where can I get this?” I’m like, “Oh, well, sign up your name and I’ll see what I can do.” After about a two-hour craft fair, I had about 200 people on that list and they all wanted a bottle. They were asking questions, “Where did it come from? I love this taste. This is like nothing I’ve ever tasted.” And I thought, “Really? How could that be?” Because that’s all I ever grew up with. I’ve never had to buy olive oil.

Curtis CordWhen was this?

Rose MalindretosThis was in 1995. 1995, 1996. A lightbulb went on in my head. I’m like, “Gosh, this is what I’m passionate about.” Watching that reaction to when people taste an olive oil that I know … I know where the fruit came from and I watched it being pressed, I bottled it, and here they are telling me it’s like the most amazing oil they’ve tasted, that’s when the lightbulb went off in my head and it said, “Hey, I need to pursue this because it’s in my blood. The olive oil is literally in my blood and I am so passionate about it.” Watching that response really motivated me to pursue that.

Curtis CordHold on a second. Before you … I want you to remember where you are. Your answer. I wanted to ask, do you remember … Did you have to explain why it was perhaps more bitter than they were used to? Were they tasting it with bread or were they tasting it straight?

Rose MalindretosAt this time, I had bread and I had spoons as well, but most … I had it as a … I had three different ramekins, because there were so many people. I kept adding more because a line was forming. I did it with bread. I explained the harvest season. I explained how it’s very fresh and that’s why it tends to be … The basic words, peppery, when … And grassy, because it was 100% Koroneiki olive variety. People … Actually, I remember having … I think I had a bottle of another supermarket olive oil because I was explaining how it’s only … It’s not a blend. It’s just olives from the tree that are on our property. When you know the authenticity and it’s pressed quickly … I really … It was very much an educational process, explaining how quickly it’s pressed, how the fresher it is, the more robust the flavor is going to be. I told them, “Go check in your cupboard and if you have a bottle with an inch of olive oil on the bottle” … I told them how you can tell from the smell if it smells like stale walnuts, then we have a problem.

Most people don’t … They don’t know that. That’s what was so incredible about that time when no one … It wasn’t on anyone’s radar. It was more of a cooking fat, not something that would add flavor and be, what I call, the third condiment. You have salt, pepper, and olive oil as something delicious to add flavor to your finished dish. People knew it for salads, for bread dipping. When you see the appeal of that grassiness, also, people like … Which is so important today, and we’ve come from, what, 1995 ’til 2016. People like to know where their food comes from. They love the story. They knew and trusted me, and I knew exactly where that olive oil came from. People love the story. They like to be able to trust, they like the authenticity, they live the traceability. That’s what I realized. I was like, people go to a supermarket, and there’s no connection to the product. It’s not cheap. You get what you pay for. If you’re buying something that’s worthy of that quality, you should get … Absolutely. You should get a story for that price.

It’s really like wine. I’ll be talking about that a lot, how that’s really the entry point for our customers to understand our concept of olive oil. I can talk more about that later on, but it was a very much for me … It was like the lightbulb went off and I watched all these people’s expressions and excitement. I had a little black market olive oil business out of my office. People would come down, “I want a case of that olive oil.” So I’d prepare a box and off they went with it.

Curtis CordI think that’s how a lot of people begin, is that way. Is bringing some oils from their family farms and giving it to friends and it grows from there.

Rose MalindretosAbsolutely.

Curtis CordI know of a few producers who’ve done that. So then what happened?

Rose MalindretosI moved to New York and I was researching how can I transition into the olive oil business. I was marketing my family’s olive oil which was a small harvest. I looked up every olive oil trade show. I went to the Fancy Food show, and there was probably a handful of olive oil producers there, just to see what it was like. I remember finding the boutique in Grand Central, Oliviers and Co. I went to that store and there was a French woman. At the time she was the business development manager from France. I brought a little sample of my father’s olive oil and we started talking about olive oil. She was like, “Wow, you know your stuff.” And I was like, “Wow, I am amazed that this concept even exists at this time.” It was … I think at this stage we were at 1999, 2000, at Grand Central, and the concept of a boutique dedicated to this vast array of olive oils was really so advanced. I was intrigued by this concept.

Basically, she said, “Hey, you should work for us” and the rest is a long history with Oliviers and Co. I’ve worked with them in many capacities. I actually worked in London for Oliviers and Co for four years and developed, at the time, the wholesale and B2B. I got the brand in Harrods at the time, Fortnum and Mason, and that was quite a challenge because that was a butter culture. You see olive oil in pharmacies because they would use to get the wax out of their ear. There was a lot of education to be had. But because it was such a premium product and the packaging was so beautiful, it really suited many retailers at the time, who wanted to be selling something new and qualitative. It was a big challenge, but again, when I’m passionate about something … Just like anyone you meet that’s passionate about something, it really helps sell the product.

Curtis CordYou’ve been working with them now for almost, what, 20 years.

Rose MalindretosYeah, yeah. Oh, my gosh, when you say that, that’s quite a history. Absolutely.

Curtis CordAnd you still like going to work every day?

Rose MalindretosI do. We’ve had a lot of different restructuring and reorganizations, and it’s changed along each leg of the journey. What I love about the company is that I get to see a lot of different aspects of the business, so I revamped … I’m in charge of the e-commerce as well. I’ve done wholesale, I’ve done retail merchandising, so for me, it’s kind of running your business. Since it’s such a small company now in the U.S., you get to really have a hands-on approach to all aspects of the business. No two days are alike and that’s what I really love about it. And you’re working with the most amazing products that I never get tired of tasting or talking about.

Curtis CordSince you’ve been there, what was the biggest transition or the biggest change that happened to the company?

Rose MalindretosWe had our founder, we called him our Chief Olive Grower, Monsieur-

Curtis CordOliviers [inaudible 00:17:27]

Rose MalindretosYes. His uncle actually was the [inaudible 00:17:32], passed away in 20- I believe it was 2015, and sold the company to a French entrepreneur. Basically, now we’re going through a restructuring in France and really a rebranding. Kind of like a rebirth of the brand. They really want to give it the attention it deserves. We used to have many more boutiques and kind of lost our momentum and now we’re building it back again, thanks to the transition in ownership and the commitment to the brand, that we’d been doing this. We were one of the first to bring the grand crew term to olive oils back in 2012. Since then there’s been so … I mean, going to the Fancy Food show now, you see someone with beef jerky, has a bottle of olive oil on their table. It’s-

Curtis CordIt’s next week.

Rose MalindretosYes.

Curtis CordIt’s this weekend. I’m going to head over there. I walk around and see some producers. It’s fun for me. There are 270 producers in the directory that have olive oil.

Rose MalindretosIncredible. Incredible. Compared to one of my first forays in there, it’s just incredible to see where we’ve come and again, the … That’s what I love. I think that’s one of the most rewarding things, is being in the Grand Central boutique in 2000, and in 2005, and offering customers a tasting and we were purists. We would have a spoon and I feel like, “Okay, have a taste of this fantastic grassy olive oil from Tuscany,” and they’re like, “Wait, you want me to taste it with a spoon?” Like it was cod liver oil. I will never forget that response. To the point where today, we have six-year-old kids coming in, trying three or four different olive oils with their parents because they have such a fondness for trying different olive oils.

Curtis CordGrand Central Station, first of all, my whole life, it’s been my favorite place on Earth. I grew up in New York and I’ve been going there since I was a little kid. I’ve been going there since there was nothing but a big Kodak sign on one side of Grand Central Station which was a famous, gigantic Kodak … Do you remember that, by any chance?

Rose MalindretosNo, no. I’m intrigued.

Curtis CordIt’s even before your time.

Rose MalindretosYeah, yeah. I’m impressed.

Curtis CordAll growing up, you walk into Grand Central Station and an entire … It’s a monstrous color image that was a Kodak advertisement. It must’ve been there for ten or 20 years. But it was there throughout my entire childhood. If you wanted food in Grand Central Station, you had a choice. There was a deli, there was a pizzeria, and that was it. There was a news stand. There were some shoe shines, places to get your shoes shined. That was it back then. Nothing else. Of course now, you’ve got food courts, you have restaurants and everything else. Grand Central Station is a place … And the reason I find it so interesting that you have a store there, not only because I’m in love with the place, and anybody who hasn’t been there has to go there. Don’t go there just to catch a train, but go there to look around, because it just a gem in the greatest city in the world.

It’s such a special place because most people are in a hurry. They’ve got a train to catch. This is the quintessential place where you’ve got New Yorkers running to do something. You don’t have them for very long. Right there in the middle of Grand Central Station is an O&CO store. When I saw that, it kind of blew me away that here in this maze of people zipping from one place to another, right in the middle of all of that frantic activity, is a Mediterranean outpost that sells, of all things, this thousands year old product with images of Mediterranean life and simplicity. In the middle of all of that hectic pace, people are tasting olive oil, of all things.

First of all, tell me about … Because you’ve spent time on the selling floor there, right?

Rose MalindretosYes.

Curtis CordWhat’s it like to grab one of these New Yorkers or when they come in … I can’t imagine. Nobody has more than 20 minutes to spare, right? Nobody.

Rose MalindretosNope.

Curtis CordThey’re coming and you’ve got them for a very short period of time. Meanwhile, what you’re selling, in my view, is really one of the most … Well, on the one hand, it’s very simple, of course. On the other hand, it’s one of the most complex things. Just like you and I could talk all day about olive oil, right?

Rose MalindretosMm-hmm (affirmative).

Curtis CordYou could talk to them all day about olive oil, but they’re not going to let you. How does it go? Bring us … A lady walks in to the store and how does it go?

Rose MalindretosYou nailed it. Grand Central is one of the hardest places to sell, but again, all of our teams are trained on that. We create an experience. We create a journey. It’s exactly that. When you walk through our door, you forget about Trek 19 across the hallway. You forget about the rush. In that split second, we transport you on a journey. It’s through a very well-rehearsed, experienced selling technique, because we want to make sure … It’s not so much selling as we’re helping someone to buy. It’s just like welcoming someone into your home and really having them taste something. Everyone who comes in, we really encourage them to taste, because again, if you ask a New Yorker, “Can I help you with something?” “No, no, no, no. Leave me alone.” We welcome them to our home, essentially. We have a tasting table. Kind of like, “Let me give you five seconds. Let me take you to Provance. Let me take you to this corner of Tuscany.” We really gauge … First of all, you have to be like a detective. You really have to assess if they’re going for a train, trust me, they’ll let you know.

They’re like, “Can you get me rung up in one minute?” “Of course we can.” We listen to our customers. Rule number one is listen to your customer because they will tell you what they need and what they want if they need to get that train. So of course, we can get you in and out in one minute. That’s the priority. Because our customers that come in … I can talk about two different customers. Our customers that know us, and when I describe an O&CO customer, I would say the number one thing is that they are loyal. They’ll come in they’ll say, “Okay, I need a refill of my Chateau Virant. Or “I need another bottle of every day olive oil.” Or “A tin every day olive oil.” “No problem, we’ll get it.” Then you have the other customer that might not know us. We find that those customers are curious.

They might not know what we sell when they walk into the door. We have to explain in pretty quick lingo what we’re all about. The line that really helps explain is we’re like a wine shop of olive oils. We have 20 to 30 olive oils that are carefully selected to really encompass a whole range of aromas and taste profiles. Kind of like wine. If the … We also ask, “Okay, what kind of olive oil do you use now? Where do you buy your olive oil?” These are really interesting questions because we need to get to know that customer as quickly as possible. “Where do you buy your olive oil? What kind of olive oil do you use? What do you use it for?” We call those probing questions to get to know our customer. We don’t want to offer someone something that they’re not going to like.

It’s like wine. It’s really matching what kind of food the customer likes to cook with what kind of taste profile they like. If someone’s a vegetarian and they like their pasta, they like a more robust oil, we get that information from them and then we say, “Okay, here you go. Here’s an amazing Tuscan olive oil that’s perfect for you pasta, for bread dipping, for salads.” We’re matchmakers. The best part of it all is once you assess they have time because they haven’t told us they have to catch a train in one minute, then what we try to do … I remember I loved to watch that light bulb go off. Like “Oh my gosh, I never realized there were so many flavors of olive oil and they’re all so different.” Basically, the optimal scenario would be to have someone try three oils. A very delicate and buttery oil from France, for example. Because we have about 205 to 30 different extra virgin olive oils from, it could be five to six to seven different countries. We’ll select a delicate and buttery one, we’ll select a medium bodied one, and then we’ll take it to the two-cough, peppery Tuscan olive oil if they’re interested.

That way you start from the more delicate, as you know, and we have them experience the wow factor in appreciating the nuances and taste and aroma. By the time they finish with that second one, they’re like, “Oh my goodness, wow.” That lightbulb goes off. Simultaneously we’ll … And this is why the staff is so important, to really tell the story, like I was saying. The journey of that oil. We know the olives, where they came from, and to where the bottling. We have full traceability because transparency is what we’re all about and what we’ve always been about. That’s something we’ve been doing from the get go. Now more and more people are doing it because there’s so many misconceptions and distrust with the whole olive oil industry. Basically, when the customer comes in and they taste, and then we simultaneously tell them a story about the producer, because we work so closely with the producer, we show them how to read what’s on the bottle. The information on that bottle is so important that we have to give them all that knowledge so they know they can trust us. From the name of the producer, the primary olive variety, the best before date.

We’ve always had a best before date on. The month and year of the current harvest. We only offer olive oils from the current harvest, unless there’s an overlap at the end of the year. Listening to the customer, establishing trust, and then having a tasting is the key. Then they’re just like, “Oh wow, this is amazing.” We also offer, as you know, a range of amazing vinegars and Mediterranean specialties. We work with Michelin Star chefs to create a whole range and tapenades and pestos. It’s really a journey, a Mediterranean journey. After three olive oils that might be perfect for them and we’ll have a little chaser of premium balsamic, which is one of our top sellers as well. The conversation just evolves from there, because sometimes they’ll say … A lot of people say we’re the best-kept secret in New York. A lot of our current customers, as you have experienced, have seen our boutiques in Paris, because we have about boutiques in Paris. Then they stumble upon us here because we haven’t expanded our footprint as quickly as some of our competitors.

Once people taste, then they’re hooked. It’s really amazing. And tasting is so key and something that is essential because you won’t be surprised once you get home. Plus, you’ll come in … Back in 2000 people were hesitant to taste, and now people will leave our boutique having a list of ten different things to do with that olive oil. We encourage them to use it for baking, we encourage drizzle it on your popcorn, fry an egg in it. Usage is important. We don’t want customers … Because our products are expensive, because it’s the top quality, we don’t want it to be used for special occasions, and so many times I hear that. “Oh, I’m saving it for a special occasion.” “No, no, no, no, no.” That’s the biggest different between olive oil and wine, you have to drink a good olive oil young. We encourage them usage is key. Aside from bread dipping and salad and pasta, how else can you use your olive oil? That’s something we train our staff to make sure you find out what foods that customer likes to eat and you give them five more reasons of how they can use that olive oil.

Making mashed potatoes, finishing a nice steak with a great Tuscan olive oil. Then … You could see the lightbulb, the wheels are turning, “Okay, I never knew that.” If I had a dollar, “Oh, I never realized that. I never knew you could use it like that.” That’s where you’ve seen that evolution of the health conscious aspects of using olive oil as well as the taste. When people are so conscious of where the … Buying organic salmon, you’re spending 20 some dollars a pound on a piece of salmon and then you use just any olive oil with it? That just doesn’t make sense, right? It’s a matter of education, education, education. What you are doing, Curtis, educating people, that’s priceless. You have the mass marketers, the big budget marketers that expose people to olive oil. Our job is to refine that knowledge and really show them what that top olive oil, what makes olive oil so good. What makes one better than the other. Why does one … Those are customers, questions we get all the time from 20 some years ago, the knowledge wasn’t there. People didn’t know how to use it, people just didn’t know what to ask, whereas now …

I could tell you the questions we get through our customer service line. They ask us “Which olive oil has the highest polyphenol count? Why does a smoke point vary?” Customers are knowledgeable. They’re asking some great questions.

Curtis CordIn the store, too?

Rose MalindretosYeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Curtis CordSo you’re getting better questions these days?

Rose MalindretosAbsolutely.

Curtis CordOne of the things that I find so interesting is, first of all, your products are private labeled. They’re branded Oliviers and Company. But at the same time, you proudly display the names of the producers and where they’re from on the products as well. Why is that the way that you’re doing it?

Rose MalindretosOliviers and Co was founded on experiences. Experiences with our producers. That’s how the whole brand was developed. It was founded on the question, like the finest wines, “Why can’t superior olive oil be recognized as grand crew, for example?” That’s where we realized it’s all about the people, the producers. We work with Eric Verde. He’s our … We call him our “Oleologist,” our science come poet, he’s our olive oil sommelier. He’s the one that makes the selection for us after each harvest. The company’s founded on the producers, on our relationships with the producers. I know from Greece, I mean, now especially, every time I go back to Greece, I have a line of ten producers. “Try my olive oil. My olive oil’s the best. Try my olive oil. My olive oil’s the best.” It’s very hard to change the way someone’s been doing something for centuries. For us, that relationship building with the producers is so important. We couldn’t be where we are without the producers.

It’s that collaboration. Eric knows and has a very well-respected relationship with the producers, so he visits them from all stages of the production process. It’s really a collaboration. That’s why the producers are so prominently referenced on our packaging, that’s why we tell the story of the producer, because that, at the end of the day, is who’s responsible for making such amazing oil. We want to highlight that and focus that because Oliviers and Co is based on the people behind the olive tree and the chefs behind our product. That’s really part of our concept, is to bring to light the people behind these amazing products. That’s why the selection criteria is so rigorous, because we want to showcase the world’s best olive oil producers and we use the most stringent quality control criteria and the results are the most amazing tasting oils that we bring to the public. Kind of like the olive oil competition. Like what you guys have done.

For us, it’s bringing a cohesive range of aromas and tastes.

Curtis CordYour business is built on this direct connection with the customer. They walk into the store, you talk to them, you learn about what they’re using, you talk about what foods they’re preparing, and you help them select an oil for that. That brings me to my next question, which must be an incredible challenge for you and for a company like yourself, like Oliviers and Company. I’m taking about online sales. How do you take that company philosophy and the way that you distinguish your products and your relationships with the customer, how do you take that online?

Rose MalindretosThat’s a great question. I have great answers. I helped redevelop our website with a great team to really replicate the store experience as much as one can without the taste. The taste and the smell is … It was a year-long process of a whole branding breakdown to how to convey that knowledge, that taste, that selection process, and get people to know us online. Our website now has … Again, the olive oil section is divided into usage. Every day use and then finishing. You can also … Kind of like the sales selling technique in our store. “How do you use your olive oil?” We answer the fundamental question of what our customers are asking. “How would you be using it? What can you use it with? What does it taste like? What country is it from?” We’ve translated the script of what our customers ask for to make sure we answer those questions on the olive oil category page for example. You have icons that represent dried grass or to replicate the tasting notes that we would say to the customer. The only thing … Maybe one they know. With Amazon involved we’ll have that taste ability. You never know.

Curtis CordRight.

Rose MalindretosOr the smell, for sure, right? Misting through your speaker. But again, it’s really about education. We have a producer page, linked to each oil, where you find out about the producer, their [inaudible 00:38:58], their story, which is what we would tell the customer in the store. Is the olive oil category floral or grassy? That’s the starting point to gauge your taste. Kind of like “Do you want a white wine or a red wine?” Of course, there’s all sorts in between, but that’s a good starting point. Then from there, you can select by country and you can sort based on taste profile. All the information that we would tell a customer is on our website. It’s really just the taste that can’t come through. We have customers who call. Joanne’s our … We call her our “olive oil lady.” She’s our customer service manager. We have customers who have been buying Chateau Virant, one of our oils that we’ve had for years and years and years, and they know mother nature controls what it’s like each year.

If we have it from one year to the next, they might call and say, “Okay, how does it compare to last year?” They just know us so well. They just want to hear someone tell them … okay, even though it says it’s still delicate and buttery, they just want our take on it. It’s the convenience of shopping online compared to the purists. We’ll always have those people who want to taste in the store, and that’s how it should be. Tasting, you can’t have … That’s the best way to know it’s something you like for sure.

Curtis CordI imagine, and maybe you can confirm this or deny it, but I would imagine that most of your online shoppers are those who’ve already been in the store.

Rose MalindretosCorrect. Absolutely. Absolutely. Most people … That’s why … Retail is changing so incredibly fast. But we need storefronts. We need the stores because that’s where people have their first encounter with Oliviers and Co. They go in there, they taste, and that’s where … We want to make sure that we have them work together. Kind of like an omni-channel. We’re working towards am omni-channel strategy, where we don’t want to have people not go to the stores and just shop online, we want to work together with the stores to make it an experience that will keep attracting new customers. And getting more people through the store door and an incentive for them. Obviously, if they’re traveling … We only have two stores in New York, so we have a lot of the United States to cover and a lot of people then shop online to get refills or whatnot.

As far as New York goes, you know New Yorkers, they want convenience, convenience, convenience. That’s something we’re working on now, improving that multi-channel strategy. We have people who keep going to the store and having that tasting experience, because there’s nothing like tasting the olive oil and having that expertise of the staff guide them through that. And as you said, Grand Central is renovating and has the fresh market there. It’s just one stop shopping. It’s a great destination.

Curtis CordAre some of the other Oliviers and Company stores in such impressive locations as Grand Central or is GCT sort of known within your company as the big leagues?

Rose MalindretosYeah. That’s our flagship for sure. On the other hand, our Bleeker Street store in the village is … It’s a gem. That reminds me of the true original Oliviers and Co in Paris. It’s very much a neighborhood store. We’re across from Amy’s Bread, right next to Murray’s Cheese. We’re on the food strip of Bleeker Street and we’re actually part of the New York food tours, which brings us a lot of our customers. The New York food tours, they bring three or four groups into our store and you have about ten minutes, so you get an olive oil 101, you have tastings, and then they stop at the fishmonger, they go to the pizza store, the sweet. It’s like a foodie heaven. At the end of the tour they can come back and shop with us. It’s a great way to expose new people to our brand and it’s just a fun experience in the village. But people usually have a lot more time. Per your initial question, our customers in Bleeker Street, they love to chit chat. You could stay there for an hour and just go through twenty grand cru oils. It’s a very, very different selling experience.

Curtis CordRose, I could talk to you all day long.

Rose MalindretosLikewise.

Curtis CordBut I know you probably have a train to catch.

Rose MalindretosI’d rather sip my olive oil, Curtis.

Curtis CordI’d like to know what is the first thing you’ll do when you get to Chania.

Rose MalindretosOh, my goodness. I think my dad already has asked me what I want to eat when I’m there, so I think I’m going to have a freshly squeezed orange juice and just walk around the olive groves and just breathe it all in and look forward to recharging my batteries under the Cretan sun.

Curtis CordThat’s a perfect note to end on. Rose, this was fantastic. Thank you so much.

Rose MalindretosThank you, Curtis. And here’s to all things olive oil. Great job and continue what you’re doing.