The name Olive Cart gives only a hint of what shoppers will find at the new store in St. Joseph, but that's not news to those familiar with the store's first location in South Haven.
The store's product line includes high quality extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars perfect for gourmet cooking. Upon entering the store customers will find a tasting room with tapenades, glazes, stuffed olives, fresh-baked breads, and pestos all of which can be sampled. The store also has unique gourmet gifts featuring Michigan made pottery.
Olive Cart opened its second location at 421 State Street, in St. Joseph in mid-June and since then the owners have been pressed to keep up with the business. Word quickly spread among the clientele of the South Haven store who had been traveling north for nearly four years. Summer visitors to the area also have boosted sales.
As word spread, it's been a lot of 19 hour days for co-owners Jeff McDonald and Dave Drees. The 2,500-square-foot store also employs 5 others.
The two got into the vinegar and olive oil business as they built on their experience with a bed and breakfast in Fenville. Drees has the financial background, as a CPA, and McDonald has a culinary background, having been a chef all his adult life, and the stores feature many of the gourmet recipes he has developed over the years. For example, the Olive Cart adds real herbs to its oils and balsamic vinegar based products instead of the flavorings added by others.
The store's balsamic vinegar is aged 25 years. Drees and McDonald select olive oils and vinegars made in Spain, Greece, Italy and California, where the finest olives are grown. They select those they believe are the finest oils and vinegars.
Michigan produce is used whenever possible in their food products. And customers favorites follow the seasonal changes, enjoying Traverse City cherries, Southwest Michigan blueberries and strawberries in turn. Olive Cart's Tuscan Herb Oil, with garlic, basil, and oregano is another favorite. "People know what to do with it," McDonald says.
The aged balsamic vinegars are highly versatile, being used to top everything from the expected grilled meats and salads, to the unexpected ice cream and cheese cakes. McDonald says many people who have not had aged balsamic vinegar don't realize how rich and think it is. (The Chocolate Marshmallow Balsamic Vinegar is recommended for ice cream.)
Many of the Olive Cart’s products also are available for purchase through its web site, which
offers a special section for recipes that includes over 300 recipes that can be used with their products. Olive Cart ships anywhere in the continental United States.
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Jeff McDonald, Olive Cart
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