Green Gate Olive Oils Expanding Reach
Keith and Georgeanne McDaniel had just walked out of a store in Park City, Utah, that sold olive oils and balsamic vinegars when she turned to him and said, “We are so doing this.”
He responded, “Are you sure?
“Absolutely,” she said. “I don’t have a doubt.”
Today, Georgeanne laughs while recounting the story of a chance encounter with a merchant during a December 2009 skiing vacation that prompted the McDaniels to open Green Gate Olive Oils in downtown Pinehurst less than six months later.
“Keith was just stunned because I had always shot down his entrepreneurial ideas,” she said last week. “We knew nothing about running a retail store, but we both had a ‘wow’ moment tasting all of the olive oils in that shop.”
Keith admits to being “more adventurous” than Georgeanne, so he was taken aback by her initial response.
“I’ll try anything, but I kept testing her resolve at every point before we opened,” he said. “She kept saying, ‘It’s going to be fine. We’re going to do it.’ We’ve never looked back.”
The McDaniels also didn’t waste any time getting started. They e-mailed the supplier — Veronica Foods Co. in Oakland, Calif. — before leaving Park City and talked with CEO Veronica Bradley on the telephone between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. They also worked locally with Clift Commercial in early 2010 to find retail space.
“We looked in Southern Pines first, but what sold us on this space was the brick columns,” Keith said of the 1,000 square feet they are leasing below Gentleman’s Corner in the heart of the village.
While Georgeanne kept her job as director of employee relations at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Keith quit his as a grief counselor for FirstHealth Hospice on March 5, 2010, and dove into up-fitting the space the next day.
“I was here every single day until we opened on April 24,” he said. “I use to build stuff in the basement of my grandparents house, so I rediscovered my spark. I had worked all those years helping other people identify their spark, but I had to come down here to discover my own.
“You can cover up your spark, but you can’t kill it. Once you hit it, life opens up on a higher level. Everything else we have done has flowed from that moment.”
The business name, which had to be approved by Veronica Foods, stems from a green gate the McDaniels had at a former residence and kept after moving.
“I found it in our attic, and now it’s right here in the store,” he said. “This place is magic.”
The McDaniels have since extended the “magic” to Winston-Salem, where they opened a Green Gate Olive Oils last February that is managed by their son, Brandon. Both stores offer 44 olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.
“He didn’t want to do it at first, but then he saw how much fun we were having and changed his mind,” Georgeanne said. “We didn’t plan to have a second retail location so soon. But Veronica Bradley called and told us that someone else was ready to open a shop in Winston-Salem if we weren’t, and we already had right of first refusal for that market.”
Closer to home, the McDaniels are currently up-fitting another 1,000 square feet of space in the same Pinehurst building for the July 1 opening of Green Gate Gourmet. The new store will sell kitchen ware and gourmet food, as well as offer a bridal registry, event planning and cooking classes.
Ellen Marcus and Leah Dew will co-manage the store, with Marcus focusing on the cooking end and Dew taking care of the registry and event planning. They will be joined on all fronts by Carole Huettig, who already supplies Green Gate with gourmet chocolates infused with some of the olive oils and balsamic vinegars for sale at the stores.
“I had been doing it privately for 30 years just as a hobby,” Huettig said. “I had no idea if I could integrate Green Gate products into my chocolates, but I came home and turned by kitchen into a science experiment. I’ve been coming up with new things all the time and it’s really energized me.”
For example, Green Gate now sells Blood Orange Bark, a dark chocolate infused with blood orange olive oil that also contains dried cranberries and is sprinkled with organic pumpkin seeds and sea salt. There is also a white chocolate infused with Persian lime olive oil that contains coconut and is topped with crushed cashews.
“It’s all been trial and error, more or less. Of course, there’s a lot of tasting involved, so that’s the hard part,” Huettig said with a laugh. “It’s been fun. Keith and Georgeanne have been fabulous to work with. It’s really been a pleasure.”
Marcus said the cooking classes will focus on incorporating healthier ingredients into one’s lifestyle.
“At the grocery store, we should shop the outer aisles for fresh fruits, vegetables, produce and meats — foods that haven’t been processed,” she said. “You can dress up your cooking with unique sauces and dressings that are located on the inner aisles.”
Marcus plans to take a “hands-on” approach.
“Customers will be able to sample the food that we cook,” she said. “They will also be able to create their own granola, breakfast cereal and pastas, among other things.”
Dew plans to work with brides-to-be and develop “outside-the-box” ideas for their bachelorette parties, bridal showers and wedding party favors, for example.
“Most people plan their own weddings these days, so I want to help them focus on alternatives,” she said. “Every bride wants their wedding to be unique and special.”
Keith McDaniel said that each woman will essentially run their own business under the Green Gate name.
“They have some autonomy and we all get a piece of the action,” he said.
The McDaniels shake their heads when they think about how fast things have evolved.
“”We never planned to have three shops this quickly,” Georgeanne said. “It has happened so much faster because we’ve had all these wonderful people walk in the door. We haven’t gone looking for them. They’re just amazing women.”
Georgeanne also attributes their success to the fact that their marriage has been “reinvented several times” since they tied the knot in 1976.
“We like challenges,” she said. “We like change, and this is doing it in big doses for us. But we know everything will click like it always has. You just have to work at it.”
Keith calls his wife “a saint” for the “four or five marriages” he has put her through over the years.
“Thankfully,” he adds, “they have all been to the same woman.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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