By Indiana Nash
NISKAYUNA — The Evergreen Olive Oil Co., which opened Aug. 13 in Niskayuna, is bringing better taste to the community with a few unique products.
The company was founded by Erin Popeleski, a longtime Niskayuna resident and olive oil expert. Evergreen joins ranks with a very small community of privately owned brick-and-mortar retail shops in town. Many of the retail shops in Niskayuna are franchises, making Popeleski’s business a rarity.
“People are excited to have something new in the area,” Popeleski said of her retail space at 1328 Van Antwerp Road.
Popeleski worked in the finance department at General Electric until she decided to stay at home and get more involved with her children’s schooling. Nico, Bryce and Claire are heading into another year at Iroquois Middle School in Niskayuna.
“But now that they’re in middle school, I was looking for something else,” Popeleski said of her drive to start Evergreen.
Her parents are Italian and were very involved in the Italian community in Schenectady.
“My cousin owns a few olive oil shops in the Syracuse area and I’ve always been interested in the health benefits of olive oil,” Popeleski said.
Some of the most notable benefits include reduced risk of heart disease, reduced inflammation and helping blood glucose control for those with diabetes.
Thus, she began to pull together the initial ideas of what is now Evergreen Olive Oil Company in late 2014.
“We have 66 different flavors of olive oils and vinegars,” Popeleski said.
Interspersed throughout the retail space, there is a tasting bar where customers can try the various blends and flavors of olive oil. Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar and Blenheim Apricot White Balsamic Condiemento are among the flavors that line the bar.
If you’re an olive oil novice, Popeleski will step in to decode the flavor names and offer guidance on what foods to best pair with them.
“We bottle it right in front of you. We keep the olive oil in what are called fustis because light and heat are enemies of olive oil,” Popeleski said.
The fustis are stainless steel tanks that are replete throughout the store.
Evergreen also offers spices, locally made jams and pastas — “products that our olive oils are in,” Popeleski said. Sections of the store are devoted to skin care products, candy and unique olive oil flavor-pairing varieties.
Just walking around the store makes Popeleski’s knowledge and passion for the olive oil industry palpable.
“We have olive wood products imported from Tunisia that are made from only non-productive trees,” Popeleski said of the shelf space dedicated to various cutting boards, bowls and silverware.
The retail space replaced what was once a locally owned gift shop called Letter Perfect at the Balcony.
Popeleski said that she made a lot of changes after she bought the building in 2015.
“The renovations took about seven months or so,” Popeleski said. During that time, she hired contractors to tear down some of the walls to open up the space. A porch was added and the front doors replaced.
Wanting to give business to local business, Popeleski commissioned Steinberger Woodworks, in Queensbury, to build the cabinetry for the tasting bar from reclaimed wood.
The main retail space is on the bottom floor of the building. For now, the second story is devoted to storage and is open only to employees.
But Popeleski is hoping to turn it into a space where customers who are interested in purchasing wedding favors or corporate party favors will be able to have a space to pick out their products and put everything together.
Evergreen will also be hosting private tastings to help educate the community about the health benefits fresh olive oil.
In starting Evergreen and being a new business owner, Popeleski faced a number of challenges.
“Just starting from scratch was a challenge in itself. But it feels really great to have started this, like I’ve accomplished something already,” Popeleski said.
For now, she is keeping business hours Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening for the retail space is expected in late September.
Reach Gazette reporter Indiana Nash at 417-9362, email@example.com or @indijnash on Twitter.