When Andi Rose and Shaun Armon made the decision to purchase Old Town Fort Collins’ Rocky Mountain Olive Oil in early March of 2020 they had big plans and no idea what life had in store for them. While Armon remains busy in his position at Waterpik, Rose had been on the hunt for a project to follow up her more than decade-long tenure at New Belgium Brewing, mostly in their creative department, and when they heard from the store's previous owners that they intended to sell, the opportunity seemed nothing less than perfect. A business that allowed the health focused couple and parents of five children between them to take a step further in practicing what they preach and help their community to eat healthier with them.
“Since we have a large household there are many teenage boys who love to eat, which is awesome for me so we try to make it as healthy as possible,” Rose says of her awareness of the food she serves her family and its quality.
The premium and blended olive oils are sourced from all over the world, many coming from Australia, Greece, Sicily, and Argentina and have unique flavor profiles from each growing region. Attributed to their high polyphenol content these high quality oils have a myriad of purported health benefits that lower grade products are typically too watered down to claim. The fused and infused varieties offer a uniquely mouthful butter replacement you could imagine into a myriad of recipes. Whether that means making chocolate orange brownies or any of the other delicious ideas suggested on their blog is up to the individual.
What they didn’t know then was that within a week of finalizing the sale the state government would be issuing orders to close many local businesses in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic crisis. While their status as a specialty grocer meant the store would technically be able to stay open, the desolate situation in Old Town was anything but encouraging and Rose couldn’t imagine making people come in to work for the limited clientele that might choose to stop by in the midst of all that was going on at the time.
“There was no foot traffic, all of our neighbors had shut down.” Rose remembers of their first few weeks in business, “Every restaurant, every business next to us, there was nobody still open.”
So, Rose decided to close the store and, in addition to temporarily offering home delivery and curbside pickup of their premium extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, began heavily promoting the business online. Leaning on her experience marketing in a virtual world only seemed natural to Rose and now, not quite a year later they are shipping their products all over the country; even receiving numerous requests from people living overseas. While COVID-19 would eventually force Rose and Armon to exchange their plans for a summer wedding in Mexico for masked, courthouse vows, it would not be taking their new business from them.
As for their cancelled travel plans, Rose remains hopeful they’ll still be able to travel soon. “It was not the romantic getaway we had hoped for,” Rose said of their cancelled destination wedding, “Maybe this summer.”
There was still plenty of work to be done however. Rose had already revamped the store's website but with the physical store temporarily closed, the opportunity to go ahead and update the place was impossible to pass up. With fresh paint, uncovered original brick walls, and new decorations and products; they would be ready to run the moment that opening again made sense. Now, as Old Town Fort Collins slowly builds back towards its bustling crowds of friendly shoppers and restaurant goers, the curious and the already hooked stop in regularly to pick up their favorite infused olive oil blends or to try something new and delicious. They’ve even managed to find a way for people to sample their products safely by offering private tasting sessions by appointment.
While Rose and Armon settle into the olive oil world they’re also learning more about their product and preferences. Aside from discovering that not all olive oils are created equal or contain just olive oil they’ve found their favorite flavors. Armon is a big fan of the green chili fusion, attributed to his growing up in New Mexico. Rose is currently most attached to their garlic infusion. Whether you’re after something spicy, sweet, earthy, or just traditional, the seemingly endless variety of flavors available in olive oils and balsamics will likely have a good option for you.
They’ve also partnered with several local restaurants to bring their products to more tables and hope to finally expand in doing so soon as life returns to something that more closely resembles normal. “We completely had to pivot,” Armon says of their decision to work on their online presence in light of COVID-19. They had originally thought more partnerships with local businesses would be one of their first steps toward growing the newly acquired business.
Assisting in all of this and helping to educate the store’s customers about the use and finer notes of their products is manager Paul Haroun. He hosts the private tasting sessions among his other duties and says that while cooking with their products may be intimidating for some that it’s super simple and a matter of preference.
“It’s whatever tastes best to you,” Haroun says, encouraging people to experiment and trust their instincts.
Now, closing out her first year of running her own small business, Rose is really hitting her stride. Refining and perfecting the varying flavors of vinegar and olive oil in the store, managing their growing online shop and planning for their future.
“Our goal is to make sure that people aren’t intimidated by cooking when they come in here and know how to properly use our products,” Rose says of her vision for the business, “They’re joining us in an adventure to live a little better every day.”