“It was awesome to hear,” said co-owner Clint Braidwood of the distinction bestowed on his shop by Olive Oil Times, a must read in the industry. “It made all the hard work we have put in it worth every moment.”
The company, located on Broadway in the Spa City, was named along with two boutiques in Spain, a shop in France, and a New York City store. They were fourth on the list.
Saratoga Olive Oil Co., operated by Clint, his brother Chad, and Clint’s wife Barbara, is a success story everyone dreams of.
Opened in April of 2011, the store was a major career change for the trio.
“We were clinical research monitors,” explained Clint. “We studied medications.”
But the upcoming birth of Clint and Barbara’s first child was the impetus for the leap of faith in Saratoga Springs and the olive oil market.
“Our careers had us travelling all the time,” said Clint. “We were literally just passing each other in the night because of our jobs.”
Realizing that opening a local store would give them the freedom to spend time with their daughter as well as make a living, the trio decided a store specializing in olive oils and balsamic had its possibilities.
“We have always loved [using olive oils,]” he explained. “We had been to Europe and would bring it back. We realized there is a shortage of good, fresh, pure olive oil.”
The stuff they buy from stores, Clint explained, is adulterated with lesser oils and their smoke point is much lower, creating a difference in the heat one can acquire when cooking or searing.
“It makes a difference in the taste, the cooking, even the marinating,” he continued. “Plus the health benefits – they are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants and the oils have a variety of uses.”
As for opening their first store in Saratoga Springs, Clint said it is the people who live in the area and visit that he had faith in.
“We chose Saratoga Springs for what it is – there is the culture, the arts, the shopping. It is the gem of the area.”
The trio hooked up with olive oil gurus Veronica and Michael Bradley and their daughter Rachael for their fresh oils and balsamics.
“They are on the cutting edge of the olive oil industry,” said Clint. “And their daughter is a chef and she infuses the oils.”
Those infused oils, such as the organic butter or garlic infused, are some of their most popular items.
“With this organic garlic you will never have to mince garlic again,” said Clint.
Even the store ambiance has a bit of old world charm infused with spirited Saratoga and Adirondack rustic. From the moment one walks into the quaint shop, a woodsy smell lingers on the air. Silver vats with fresh olive oil line the wood and glass shelves, with sleek, specially designed bottles underneath and large oil paintings of the race track overhead on the walls.
“We wanted it to be different than any other shop. Unique,” said Clint.
Offering one on one personal service, along with an educational tour and taste test, Clint said they also wanted the customer’s experience to be unique. With bite-sized samples of Rock Hill Bakery breads placed at strategic locations and small taster cups, customers can try the oils and balsamics individually or mix and match.
“Customers can taste any of the oils, salts and balsamics,” Clint said of the over 60 products they offer from the robust Espresso balsamic to the fruity Blood Orange and tart cinnamon pear. “We give a tour to every single person who has not been here before.”
The personal tour, Clint explained, helps people with the various characteristics of the oils. For example, he said, until they actually taste them, the difference between a store bought olive oil and one from their shop is hard to truly understand.
“Once you taste good olive oil, it is hard to go back to olive oil from a grocery store,” Clint said.
They also make great gifts, he noted.
“Ninety percent of the store is under $20,” said Clint. “If you are going to a dinner party or housewarming, they make wonderful gifts. They are also great mementos from Saratoga Springs – wonderful little keepsakes.”
The company also offers hand painted cruets for oil and vinegar, gift baskets and fresh, handmade pasta. There are also a variety of sea salts, specialty oils such as the white truffle finishing oil, and olive oil beauty products.
Clint said the store has proven so successful, that they opened a store in Burlington, Vermont and are planning for a third store in the near future.
“Our online sales have grown by 300 percent,” said Clint. “People come to town, buy a bottle, like it and can’t get back to the store, so they order it online.”
As for being named one of the top five olive oil retail outlets in the world, Clint said it was humbling and rewarding for them.
“When we first started we felt this pressure that we did not want to disappoint Saratoga because we took the name Saratoga,” he explained. “We want to make Saratoga proud and we feel we are doing just that.
For more information on Saratoga Olive Oil Co. visit www.saratogaoliveoil.com or call (518) 450-1308