The Olive Crush (also crushing some grim predictions)

A fusty in front of the Olive Crush

Mike, the owner of the Olive Crush, recalls an afternoon when he overheard a couple talking in front of his store.  Not realizing voices carry, the fellow predicted to his wife that the shop would go out of business within two months.  (I’ve heard others say the same thing, too. More than a few, actually)

No such thing has happened.  Mike (who prefers to go by first name only) says, “business is good” since relocating from Belmont to San Carlos last October.

In fact, he reports, sales have jumped by a third since he added Pappardelle’s Pasta to his offerings.

Like The Reading Bug, Geoffrey’s Diamonds and ABA Hearth & Home, The Olive Crush is a destination specialty store, drawing customers from up and down the Peninsula and San Francisco.

Of course, positive reviews on Yelp don’t hurt.  “I’ve got a crush on this place,” gushed one reviewer.  “It’s almost better than wine tasting!”

Mike, who still holds a day job in the electronics industry, says he started The Olive Crush because he was interested in the health benefits of olive oil.  “We carry olive oils with high polyphenol counts,” he said, referring to the plant based antioxidants commonly believed to be the “magic bullet” of the Mediterranean diet.

Fusties & dark glass bottles protect olive oil polyphenols

Because polyphenols are hurt by light exposure, Mike shuns clear glass bottles found in supermarkets and keeps the oil in special containers made in Italy called fusties.

The extra-virgin olive oils – all Kosher – represent the best varietals in the world, imported by ship from Italy, Spain, France and Argentina, just to name a few countries.

The Olive Crush also carries organic extra-virgin olive oil and flavored olive oils which are either fused or infused with herbs or fruit.

“Our most popular product is Tuscan herb because it has garlic, oregano, rosemary and basil, so it’s easy to use with pasta or even making salads,” Mike said.

What’s olive oil without something to mix it with?  The store sells 25 different balsamic vinegars, half of which are dark, the result of a carmelization process.  The other half are sharper, tarter white balsamics.  “They’re all sweet because they’re made from the Trebbiano grape, which is a very sweet grape,” he said, adding that there’s less than 2 grams of sugar per serving.  “People can even put it over yogurt for a really healthy dessert.”

Mike says he’s seen an increase in the number of people coming into the store interested in preparing healthier salads, an effort he’s behind 100%.  Most bottled dressings have “a couple of ingredients and then it’s a chemical list,” he said.  The solution, he added, is easy:  2/3 olive oil and 1/3 balsamic whisked together.

64 blends includes some unusual flavors, like Chocolate RaspberryEase and taste are also the reason Mike decided to begin selling Papparelle Pasta, the first brick-and- mortar to do so in California.

The artisanal brand of pasta is handcrafted in small batches in Denver, Colorado and made from durum semolina wheat sourced from a mill in North Dakota.  “The quality is really consistent so all the pastas cook in eight minutes,” Mike explained.  “You don’t have to keep throwing it at the wall to check if it sticks.”

With his unique, gourmet offerings that include roasted walnut oil and roasted sesame oil from Japan, Mike has defied the prediction that he’d be out of business by the end of 2010.  He’s still happily giving out cooking tips and recipes to his customers eight months later.

Most popular balsamic:  Traditional 18-year old (not very vinegary and relatively sweet)

Quirkiest olive oil:  Cilantro-onion

Quirkiest balsamic:  toss-up between cinnamon-pear & espresso

Most unusual pasta flavor:  Chocolate raspberry

Hottest pasta:  Habanero Radiatore

Olive Crush

653 Laurel Street

San Carlos, CA 94070

Open 10am-6pm Every Day

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  1. Overheard in San Carlos says:

    It’s nice to see a business thrive on Laurel Street that’s NOT a bar or restaurant. I hope many other unique businesses can find that magic formula for success.

    • debramonroe says:

      Many people I’ve come across share your opinion…including, I hear, one Laurel Street landlord who would prefer to lease to non-restaurant/bars. May I add nail salons to your list? Honestly, there’s no excuse for the state of my nails because all I have to do is tumble out of my car and chances are, I’dl roll into a nail salon.

  2. Arnold says:

    My wife and I had a conversation with Mike and he’s such a sweet guy who’s always willing to share cooking recipes and suggestions. He also shred how much better his business is doing in San Carlos compared to his old location in Belmont.

    Only comes to show that if you offer great products and excellent service, you can survive this tough economy and compete against the big box and online retailers.

    • debramonroe says:

      Arnold…agreed! Mike’s boxed gift set is going to SAVE me this holiday season as I have to ship stuff to family all over the country. Mike’s younger son is perhaps one of my favorite sales people in town.

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