It was in the middle of the pandemic, July 15 to be exact, when Donita Menary chose to take a new path as she was at a crossroads in her career. Working in retail her entire life, she wanted something new for herself and by sheer luck, her sister-in-law found a store that was up for sale. It took only a day, but she ended up purchasing O&V Tasting Room and decided to move it from Cambridge to Elmira.
The business offers up different flavoured oils and balsamic vinegars, in addition to a variety of locally made and gourmet items.
Long interested in the health-food business, Menary tried dabbling in it at her previous job and was even looking into opening a store a few years back. Instead, her new venture is now a focal point of the downtown core, having set up shop in the old Kitchen Kuttings building at the corner of Arthur and Church streets.
“There’s a lot of gourmet things. I have shortbreads they’re all made from a small company called Provisions[in the] Hamilton area. They do jams and really delicious shortbread. And then we have organic sugar from Snyders [Heritage] Farms [and many other items]. You see a little bit in the grocery store now, but most of these are trying to stay to small boutiques because they’re handmade, and they want to remain upscale,” said Menary.
She says she likes to carry local goods, and has had many people come in asking for her to carry their products. Because she is so new and her space is limited, she says she just cannot accommodate all the requests, but she expects to grow in the future and carry more items as she sees what residents really like to purchase, something she’s discovering since a soft opening on October 29.
As the name implies, the key focuses of the establishment are the olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Menary offers a wide variety of these products that range in flavours from Italian herb olive oils to chocolate balsamic vinegars.
While not every flavour is going to appeal to every customer who walks through the doors, she notes the wide variety will definitely give people at least one new favourite flavour to leave with happily.
She says the best thing is to come in and experience the variety along the walls because that is the best way to get to know the ins and outs of oil and vinegar.
“A lot of people don’t understand oil and vinegar until they actually come down and taste it and cook with it. Once you make something from one of these, it’s like your taste buds are alive. That’s all I can say [because] when I bought it (the store), I went and tried Italian herb. My sister-in-law said, ‘oh you gotta try the Italian herb,’ so I did. I could not stop thinking about it. I thought about it all night long – all I could remember was that taste. When I finally got the store, I took some home and I made chicken, the exact same recipe I always have. And my daughter said, ‘this is the best chicken you ever made,’” said Menary.
Given that we all have to eat every day, adding some ingredients to bring out the flavours of our food and make the experience more enjoyable is a fine idea, she added.