It’s downtown Belleville’s newest business, but it’s been a long time coming.
Olive Oil Marketplace, at 18 E. Main St., opened Friday. But owners Tim and Julie Meeks of Godfrey are no strangers to downtown shoppers, and downtown shoppers are no strangers to the wide array of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, gourmet pastas and foods, recipes and gadgets the store offers.
That’s because some of the products were offered for sale out of the same building back when Local Lucy’s called it home. When that store moved a few blocks east in September, Tim and Julie jumped at the chance to take over the space and open the metro-east’s second Olive Oil Marketplace location.
The first one, located at 108 W. Third St. in downtown Alton, opened a little over four years ago.
You’ll get the full experience by shopping in person, but if that’s not doable, don’t worry. You can order products online.
Q: Where did the idea to open a shop like this come from four years ago?
A: Tim: “Five years ago was when we actually started. The first year we were doing it out of our home and also doing different fairs and festivals and events. We were loading up and unloading every weekend and sometimes during the week. After that year we finally decided to go brick and mortar.”
Q: What about before you started the business? Where did your affinity for oils and vinegar come from?
A: Julie: “Whenever we would be on vacation or traveling, we would see shops like this. We love olive oil and bread dipping. I made the statement once that it would be cool to have (a shop like this). We’ve both been really into sales for a long time. So Tim just ran with it from there. Soon as I said the word, that was it.”
A: Tim: “We’d go into some of these olive oil stores, gourmet stores, kitchen gadget stores, foodie stores in our travels. I guess all along we kind of knew we would expand into more than just olive oils and balsamics. When we first started it was just olive oils and balsamics. That’s why we gave it the name Olive Oil Marketplace, knowing we would expand into more stuff. When we went brick and mortar, now we’re more than just olive oil and balsamics. We’ve combined the best of different worlds. We’ve got oils and balsamics; we’ve got gourmet foods; we’ve got gadgets.”
Q: So business must have been good enough in Alton over the years to justify an expansion?
A: Tim: “It’s been great.”
A: Julie: “We’ve had customers come as far as an hour and a half away, from southern Missouri to an hour north of us. We have cardiologists, chiropractors and dieticians recommend patients come to the store, whether its for heart health or weight loss. People would come in the door and say ‘Dr. So-and-so told me I need to get in here.’”
A: Tim: “We’re more than just a store. Yeah, we’re a retail store, that’s reality. But it’s not only about that. It’s more about the education, the personal social outreach. There are a lot of folks that come in just to talk and share. Educating the customer on what to do is really the key. And what you buy in the grocery store can’t compare to the product you get here. All of our oils and balsamics are imported from Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia.”
Q: So you’ve got doctors recommending patients shop at your stores to find healthy foods. Do you think about the fact that you’re sometimes helping people prepare better, healthier meals for themselves and their families?
A: Tim: “Most definitely. I don’t think I’ve ever put it into those words, but you’re right. It’s true. And we’re constantly adding recipes to our website. We’ve got healthy stuff, but we’ve also got some of the bad stuff here. We like that stuff, too.”
Q: When did you decide to get into a second location?
A: Julie: “We have been up here (in Belleville) for almost five years in this building, selling product when this was Local Lucy’s. And Tim just kept expanding our inventory here. We have a lot of followers that came up here and live in this area.”
Q: So it was sort of a natural move?
A: Tim: “Yeah. We kicked it around for probably a year and a half. We’ve looked at a couple different buildings. And I still work a full-time job. It’s like, ‘OK, are we going to do this, or are we not going to do this?’ Then a few months ago, (Local Lucy’s) decided they were going to move to another location down the road. That made our mind up. We said all along that if they ever moved out, this would be a good place. It has character.”
Q: Your shops have that look and feel about them, like they wouldn’t work in just any location. Doing them in places like downtown Alton or downtown Belleville works, but it wouldn’t work just anywhere. Do you get that sense from customers?
A: Julie: “We get it all the time. We’ve heard that a lot. The building we’re in (in Alton) is about like this one. There’s character. We don’t want it to look like a box store. It wouldn’t be so personal otherwise.”
Q: What are you most looking forward to with this location? What’s the biggest challenge going to be?
A: Tim: “I think the biggest challenge is that we started this as a family business, me and my wife. We want it to be very personal. Expanding into another location forces us to hire people, but we have to hire the right people. They need to have the same values that we have. That’s going to be important. We’ll get the right people. We’re looking forward to being in Belleville. We are looking forward to meeting and introducing our products to more people. We’d love everybody to come in. It’s an experience, it’s not just coming into a store.”
Tim and Julie Meeks
- Jobs: Co-owners of Olive Oil Marketplace
- Locations: 18 E. Main St. in Belleville and 108 W. Third St. in Alton
- Details: www.oliveoilmarketplace.com