Olive & Kickin' opened this spring on Biltmore Avenue as the first olive oil-and-vinegar tasting room in Asheville. Next to the requisite tanks of olive oils and vinegar, the shop also offers roasted sesame and almond oils, as well as an Italian oil pressed from nothing but white truffles. "We have a lot of people addicted to that," says owner Karen Kortendick.
What makes you unique? Our product definitely distinguishes us. I think we've definitely got the best product of all the stores. We're sourcing it from some of the best places in the world, so that's going to set us apart, regardless of how many stores are here in Asheville.
You were the first to open. Do you have any notable new products? We have new products coming in all the time. Basically, what we're doing is 'following the olive crush’ — that means we have the freshest oils in the world available for us to bring into the store. As the Northern Hemisphere transitions into the summer, and we've used the oil from the last fall, we're going to move into the Southern Hemisphere where they're crushing their fall harvest, so we always have the freshest product.
One of your competitors said that you aren’t independent because you are under contractual obligation to a single supplier. Is that the case? We’re an independently owned store, not a franchise. We have one distributor, yes, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t independent. But we probably have the freshest product in the world because our distributor follows the olive crush from one hemisphere to the other. What our distributor is doing for us is spending all of her money traveling all over the world sourcing the finest, freshest estate oils that there are. [Veronica Foods of Oakland, Calif. supplies Olive & Kickin’, as well as more than 200 other stand-alone olive and vinegar stores throughout the U.S. The company was founded by Italian immigrant Salvatore Esposito in 1924.]
What are the vinegars like? All of our vinegars are from Modena, Italy. We switch those out as we go through the seasons, too. We're about to bring in a red apple and a pumpkin for the fall. We have a great 18-year-aged traditional.
What is the most unique product in your store? Our espresso balsamic vinegar has been very popular, our cranberry-pear, too. Our jalapeño vinegar has been popular for ceviche. We can purchase for our customers the traditional, aged, true balsamics, but there aren't many people asking for those — they're $200 for a 100-milliliter bottle.
Olive & Kickin' is located at 32 Biltmore Ave. in downtown Asheville. For more information, visit oliveandkickin.com or call 251-1117.