Shopping isn’t just about a purchase at Lane Parke’s olive oil store. Owner Vickie Bailey calls it “a social sensory shopping experience” where you get to talk about what you taste. And while COVID-19 safety measures have curtailed tasting temporarily, it certainly can’t stop Vickie and her staff from sharing infinite suggestions for how to use their oils, balsamic vinegars and other food items in your cooking, and they offer curbside and delivery services as well. Here’s what Vickie had to say about it all.
How did you first get interested in olive oils?
We came up with the idea in Italy when we visited my daughter, and my husband, Richard, and I went to an olive harvest. After seeing lifestyle there and how they practice the Mediterranean diet with fruits and vegetables, we thought it would be great to promote those kinds of things. After we came back, we were at a conference in La Jolla and went to a store that had olive oil in tap, and we liked that idea. I am a retired principal and I wanted to educate people on healthy living and healthy lifestyle, so it suits my passion.
Your first store was in Fairhope. How did you get to opening one in Mountain Brook?
We opened our first store in Fairhope in October 31, 2013, so I could hand out candy that day. I saw a lot of the children I had at school were coming in as adults. A lot of people from Birmingham were coming down for vacation and kept saying, “Why don’t you come to Birmingham?” We looked around at different places and felt like Lane Parke would best suit us. Since we sold the other store in August 2020, we are becoming more local to Mountain Brook and revamping our website, mountainbrookolive.com.
What oils and vinegars do you recommend customers try?
We have a pairing of the month, so I always let people try that. The most popular oil infused is Tuscan Herb. It’s a hint of garlic, and people put it on everything. One of the people who works for us put it on a grilled cheese. If people have been using butter only, we suggest butter-infused olive oil; it’s great with popcorn. Garlic is a great one, and Herb de Province has a hint of rosemary.
The balsamics are from Modena, Italy. Fig and Cranberry Pear are popular, and we have a new Peach. Lemongrass Mint goes great in water with cucumbers, and I use Blackberry Ginger to cook pork chops. Everyone loves a traditional balsamic, and we have a great balsamic glaze I use to garnish food and enhance the flavor. Our vinegars are great to put in cocktails, and we have recipes for them. We call them vintails.
What makes your olive oils unique?
If you purchase olive oil at the grocery store that has been in a warehouse for six months to a year, it’s already depleted of its health benefits. Olive oil offers benefits for joint pain, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol with the good fats. It reduces the long-term effects of Alzheimer’s, and I have an entire list of benefits from a UC Berkeley study I can show people. The northern hemisphere oils are coming in now because they were harvested in November and December, and we will get the ones from the southern hemisphere more toward the middle of the summer.
What do you offer in addition to olive oils and vinegars?
Most olive oil stores are just tasting rooms, but I have brought in serveware and gifts and charcuterie boards and different condiments. We are doing charcuterie classes and Vinaigrette 101 and Olive Oil Tasting 101, so I am bringing some new things into this store along with gourmet mustards. I want to do a Mountain Brook blend of mustard soon and will ask the customers what they would like to see. We also have olives for martinis and Italian bruschetta–things you can’t find in big box super markets. We just got in Georgia Jams Habanero Peach Spread, which won a Made in the South award from Garden & Gun.