DESTIN — Inspiration for a business can happen anywhere, even on vacation.
Neighbors Gina Seton and Dar Zook formed a partnership instantly after hearing about each other’s experience with specialty olive oil stores on separate trips to California and New York.
“I on the spot said, ‘You want to do it with me?’ and she on the spot said, ‘Yeah’ and that was it,” Zook said. “I walked into the house and said to my husband, ‘I think I made a partnership.’ ”
Olive is a small store reminiscent of a wine cellar, with display shelves containing about 40 oil and vinegar taps. It opened six weeks ago in the Shoppes at Paradise Isle on the south side of U.S. Highway 98 across from the Destin Commons.
The owners encourage their customers to “play” with the oils and vinegars.
Zook said visitors generally spend about 45 minutes in the store, trying new combinations and tasting the wide range of extra virgin olive oils, flavored olive oils, balsamic vinegars and specialty oils like truffle and walnut.
The owners said they love olive oil for its reported health benefits, including mental acuity, cardiovascular health, believed cancer preventive elements and more.
“It’s a great product. It’s authentic. It’s healthy. It’s everything we’re looking for to put into our bodies and into our children’s bodies,” Zook said.
Customers make the rounds to each tasting station. One shopper was overheard saying she must have died and gone to heaven.
The owners often show off new products, including cherry-flavored balsamic vinegar.
On the spot, Zook envisions French toast with dried cherries soaked in the vinegar overnight, with cracked almonds and cherry vinegar drizzled over the combination.
“This is what we do all day. We play with the oils,” Seton said, laughing.
Seton said she loves to mix the fruit vinegars with plain organic yogurt to eliminate the sugars found in store-bought versions. She also said she makes brownies with the blood orange olive oil available at the store.
Zook said customers have told her instead of making omelets they have used just the mushroom and sage olive oil to create the “best scrambled eggs they’ve ever eaten.”
“Very simple applications become incredible meals with these products,” Zook said. “I’ve put my spices away and instead I’m just using the oils.”