Estero, Florida’s Estero Bay Olive Oil & Tea offers a wide variety of high quality olive oils, balsamic vinegars and teas, along with an atmosphere conducive to community bonding.
Co-Founders Doug Thompson and Diana Todorova opened the shop in November 2018 with the mission of providing a community space in a locale that was lacking in its scope of activities. Thompson had previous entrepreneurial experience as the proprietor of two olive oil stores in Florida. “Including tea in this store has been a fun part of the process,” said Thompson. Todorova worked as a globetrotting television journalist in Bulgaria prior to immigrating to the United States.
They noticed a lack of cultural activities in South Florida and restaurants that hurried customers through the dining experience. They decided to create a more European experience for customers, one in which people could linger, socialize, enjoy top quality olive oil and tea and soak in the atmosphere. A live tree in the middle of the store gives the feeling of being in a park and a community table presents an opportunity for people to interact with each other.
They were also inspired by the book The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People, by Dan Buettner, and published by the National Geographic Society. It is a study that examines the happiest pockets of the world, “One of the things they determined is that the happiest communities are those that have a sense of community where people talk and meet and get to know each other,” said Thompson. Estero Bay Olive Oil & Tea is currently in the process of becoming Blue Zone Certified, meaning the business pledges to promote health and well-being initiatives.
Todorova’s upbringing was influential. Her parents’ property in Bulgaria had wild herbs her mother used to harvest and brew for different wellness purposes. “We had this very herbal, homeopathic approach,” said Todorova. “The tea store was a natural progression of that healthy lifestyle.”
Thompson and Todorova wanted to serve the health-oriented people of Estero Bay and Naples, Florida. Olive oil and tea are both known for their polyphenol content. The shop carries 35 olive oils, 45 balsamic vinegars and 70 teas.
They allow customers to taste the olive oils, balsamic vinegars and teas and offer weekly events, such as Afternoon Tea parties every other Sunday with live jazz music. They also host Tasty Tuesdays biweekly, during which people have the opportunity to improvise with drizzling different olive oils and balsamic vinegars on their food, salads, bruschetta and appetizers while accompanying the food with tea.
“It seems like young people really enjoy having a place to go and sit at a tea bar and have tea,” said Thompson. “They become tea regulars.”
Additionally, the shop hosts classes, such as Olive Oil 101, which teaches the benefits of olive oil, and a class on the origin of English Afternoon tea. Next, they will offer a class covering Japanese teas and in which students use traditional Japanese teaware. The store also hosts events for local organizations.
Launching the Business
Estero Bay Olive Oil & Tea is located in the Coconut Point outdoor mall in Estero, Florida, a few minutes’ drive from the beach. Thompson and Todorova signed the lease Aug. 1, 2018 and opened the store Nov. 20, 2018. During that time period, they came up with the name, logo, and website and Thompson built most of the furniture for the store.
“One of the challenges these days is trying to figure out your marketing strategy,” said Thompson, and recommended that aspiring entrepreneurs figure out their marketing strategy prior to opening a business. The co-founders’ marketing measures include offering discounted teas of the month, as well as giveaways on their Instagram page and have found events to be an effective way to attract customers.
Coconut Point mall used to have a Teavana outlet and when Starbucks closed the store, it left a void that Estero Bay Olive Oil & Tea is filling. However, unlike Teavana, Thompson and Todorova do not believe in setting daily sales quotas for their employees, “We don’t do any hard selling… and I think the customers appreciate that,” said Thompson. Instead, their employees educate customers about the products.
However, all marketing aside, Todorova still feels having quality products that customers like is the key to having a successful business, and Thompson believes in being receptive to customers’ feedback.
They hope to expand and open additional stores in other states.