Duo’s Libertyville store focuses on olive oil
Mary Koval and Sandy Schueneman stand in front of the wide assortment of gourmet olive oils at their store Oh, Olive! in downtown Libertyville. | Ruthie Hauge ~ Sun-Times Media
NAME: Oh, Olive!
WHERE: 606 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
WHAT: Extra virgin olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars bottled and sealed on site, pasta products Tiesta Teas, fresh spices and other products from family-owned businesses
CONTACT: (224) 433-6629, www.oo2go.com
OTHER: Customers can bring in their empty bottles to receive a discount on their next olive oil or vinegar purchase.
Updated: June 4, 2012 10:38AM
Sandy Schuenemann and Mary Koval, owners of Oh, Olive! in Libertyville and Glenview, are passionate about olive oil — its taste, health properties and versatility.
They stumbled into the olive oil business after a chance encounter with a real extra virgin olive oil from a California distributor. Like most folks who sample genuine extra virgin olive oil, they marveled at the taste.
A trip to California for a cram session in olive oils, and they were hooked. Two years ago, they opened Oh, Olive! in Libertyville. They opened a second store in the Glen in Glenview in November.
Schuenemann said they chose the name and its unique punctuation to convey the excitement they feel for their products: “It just seemed to convey our enthusiasm and passion for what we do.”
Koval, Schuenemann’s niece, agreed.
“We’re olive oil enthusiasts,” she said.
Genuine extra virgin olive oil is almost impossible to find in grocery stores as manufacturers adulterate and water down olive oils. Consequently, Schuenemann and Koval consider their job to be as much about educating their customers as selling them quality products.
That meshes perfectly with their former lives in the education business. They and their staff will often spend 15-20 minutes with new customers having them sampling products to determine preferences, Koval said.
“We feel customers out to determine their taste favorites,” said Schuenemann.
The tasting takes so long because Oh, Olive! carries approximately 20 extra virgin olive oils from California and countries all over the world including Chile, Australia and Spain. Some olive oils are infused with flavors such as basil, garlic, chipotle and herbs de Provence.
To help customers, each fusti (the stainless steel, urnlike containers for the oil) is labeled with the name of the oil, its taste characteristics and some suggested uses. Oils are arranged in order of intensity.
Because olive oil is perishable (unopened oils last about a year, opened oil about three months), the store rotates its selection of oils about every six months. That timeframe corresponds to the different growing seasons of the two hemispheres.
Oh, Olive! buys its oils from Veronica Foods which has one of the best reputations in the olive oil business. The company buys oils from small growers all over the world who adhere to strict quality standards. Every oil is subject to chemical testing to insure top quality.
Schuenemann and Koval spent considerable time looking for the right community for their first store.
“We looked a long time for a place with the character of Libertyville,” said Koval. “The clientele in Libertyville is wonderful; they come and support us.”
Besides vinegars, their stores also offer a large selection of balsamic vinegars from Modena Italy, ground zero for balsamic vinegars.
Their favorite vinegar is the 18-year balsamic. Its distinctive taste marries well with any olive oil, but it can be drizzled on its own over fresh fruit and even ice cream.
The owners’ background in education — Schuenemann retired as an education administrator, Koval worked in IT — has defined their store. Besides the helpful labels, the store offers recipes, a page of suggested pairings (strawberry balsamic and basil oil, dark chocolate balsamic and chipotle olive oil) and hosts occasional cooking demonstrations and tastings.
“You don’t have to be a cook to use our oils and vinegars, you can use them as a finishing oil or top a pizza with our harissa oil,” said Schuenemann.
Although the two women opened the first store, they have convinced other family members to join the business. Shuenemann’s husband serves as general manager of the business and her son, Aaron, is a partner in the Glenview operation. Aaron Shuenemann also developed the online business
Oh, Olive! also offers teas, coffee, spices, pasta products and olive oil beauty products, among other goods. Each product is made by a family-owned business.
In six months, the owners will open a third store in Lincoln Park on West Armitage Street. Also planned for the future: participation in Chicago’s Downtown French Market.