With the opening of their new store, one Redmond couple is working to prove that not all olive oils are created equal.
Education Hill residents Kevin and Shirley Carder opened their store last month and as the name implies, Paradiso Olive Oils and Vinegars at 16717 Redmond Way, Suite 150 in downtown offers a variety of olive oils and balsamic and white balsamic vinegars for customers to choose from and mix and match.
Kevin said the one of the biggest differences between the olive oils they sell in their specialty shop and the bottles seen in grocery stores is the production process. He said the olives for their products are handpicked when they are ripe and taken to the mills to be cold pressed within hours.
With other brands, the olives are usually falling off the trees and past their ripeness when they are pressed. Kevin said this method provides more oil, but olives that are pressed earlier produce better oil.
“The quality is increased,” he said.
Kevin added that with the exception of a few, all of their oils are produced from olives grown in the southern hemisphere. And like wine, he said factors such as the climate and soil in the region where the olives are grown will affect the oils’ tastes. Kevin said he rotates between southern and northern hemisphere oils every six months, since the two hemispheres have opposite summers and winters. He added that the northern oils are currently being processed and should be available at the beginning of the year.
Paradiso olive oils come in about two dozen flavors such as Tuscan Herb, lemon, blood orange and garlic. The shop’s balsamic vinegar flavors range from traditional and espresso to lavender and pomegranate to coconut white balsamic and cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar.
In addition to selling the products, Paradiso is also a tasting room and customers can taste and try everything before purchasing.
Bottles for both oils and vinegars come in three sizes: 200, 375 and 750 milliliters (about 6.76, 12.68 and 25.36 fluid ounces, respectively). The bottle prices are $12.95, $17.95 and $34.95, respectively.
All bottles are filled by hand on the spot when the customer makes a selection.
A NEW ENDEAVOR
Kevin, at 60, recently retired from his old career as a painting contractor and is the one who spends the most time at Paradiso, while Shirley has kept her day job as a human resources manager at a digital solutions company in Seattle.
Shirley said she helps her husband out as much as she can and takes care of the shop’s paperwork in the evenings and on the weekends. But between her job and helping out with her parents, who live in south Bellevue, she said her main role has been just supporting Kevin.
Shirley said they were both a bit apprehensive about opening Paradiso since neither of them has much retail experience — aside from her days in high school working as a carwash clerk. However, she said they both had customer service experience with Kevin’s old career and her current one.
Despite this apprehension, the couple continued with their new endeavor because they were both very excited about the prospect of opening an olive oil and vinegar shop.
The idea to open a shop came when the couple was traveling in Arizona to celebrate their 30th anniversary. They had stopped by an olive oil and vinegar tasting room just before heading to the airport on the recommendation of another couple they met on the trip.
“I was convinced I wanted to bring the concept back to Redmond,” Kevin said.
Kevin said after a knee surgery last year, working as a painting contractor was becoming a very physical job for him.
So he began looking into how he could start his own specialty shop: finding a location, looking for furniture (much of which he purchased from Borders Books in Redmond Town Center during its closing sales) and enlisting the help from friends he’d made in the construction business during his previous career.
“It was just lots of kindness,” he said about all the help he received.
Paradiso opened in early September and Kevin said things have been going well. Located on Redmond Way between 166th Avenue Northeast and 168th Avenue Northeast, he said many drivers use their shopping center’s parking lot as a shortcut through traffic and some have actually stopped in to Paradiso as a result.
Although neither Kevin nor Shirley has had much experience in oil and vinegar world, they are both enjoying the learning process. Kevin has been buying a lot of pre-made salads and testing different oil and vinegar pairings.
Shirley has been experimenting as well and improving her cooking skills.
“I think I learn something new every day about olive oil’s benefits for us…how to pair things for unique flavors and developing recipes,” she said. “I want to share those ideas with everyone.”
Shirley added that it has also been rewarding for them to have family and friends getting involved in their new business.
“I can’t tell you how thankful we are for our friends who continue to help us out and support us,” she said. “Ultimately, this is our American dream that we hope we can share and grow with into our older age!”