LINCOLN PARK — Sandy Schuenemann is taking her experience as a teacher, principal and associate superintendent and using it to teach customers the intricacies of exotic olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
"With this, we got the opportunity to teach," she said.
The business features more than 30 types of olive oils and vinegars imported from Morocco, Tunisia, Greece, Italy and Spain — to name a few —and has flavors such as tangerine balsamic, aged pure maple balsamic and cilantro and roasted onion and Japanese roasted sesame olive oil.
"It's the real deal," Schuenemann said. "It would make shoe leather taste good."
Schuenemann and her niece Mary Koval started the company in Libertyville in 2009 after realizing their shared love of not only the cooking and the taste of olive oil, but the health benefits they would be able to share with their customers.
"We are trying to raise the standards of olive oil," Schuenemann said. "The standards are so low. Some of them in stores are at six percent extra virgin and the rest is canola and vegetable oil."
The business is lined with silver barrels of oils and vinegars that each include a recipe from Schuenemann or Koval that is specific to the barrel, such as their signature black cherry balsamic brownies.
"When you come to our store it's more of an experience than a pop in and pop out," Koval said.
Schuenemann hooked up with an importer in California whose family-based business has been bringing in oils from around the world for over 100 years, and twice a year swaps out the entire stock of oils to reflect the freshest oils at that time of the season.
In the winter, Oh, Olive!'s stock is from the northern hemisphere, while in the summer, the oils on the shelves are from the southern hemisphere.
Schuenemann attempted to continue working as a super-intendant while running the shop until about a year ago, when she realized she needed to make the full leap into the world of small business.
"It was time to move," she said. "It's different, but I still get to teach, so I like it."
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