Collingwood Olive Oil
Husband and wife team, Cheryl McMenemy and Alex Yuen, opened the doors of The Collingwood Olive Oil Company in May of 2014. Alex, a native of Collingwood, is best known for managing the original Bamboo Terrace Restaurant, his dedication to the community and his astute business acumen. Cheryl has decades of experiences in media and marketing, and can be remembered as a former publisher of the Enterprise Bulletin. Creatively renovating a tired heritage home, they crafted a beautiful location where they could dispense the freshest extra virgin oils from around the world and an impressive selection of all natural, gluten-free balsamic vinegars.
The pair adopted two key beliefs into their business concept: That a customer should be able to taste everything before they take it home, and that education is critical for recurring business. This combination lead to one of the finest and most enjoyable features of their store: The Tasting Tour. Every customer that walks through the door is greeted by a friendly and highly trained employee, who guides them through olive oil chemistry, handling and health properties. Additionally, customers are encouraged to taste anything of interest!
The combination of Cheryl’s marketing strength and Alex’s exceptionally discerning taste as a chef with over 25 years in the industry, Collingwood Olive Oil Company boasts numerous awards. These include Small Business Owners of the Year, Innovative Business of the Year, Metroland Readers Choice – Favourite New Business, #1 Shopping in Collingwood – Trip Advisor, and this May 2021 they celebrated their 7- year anniversary with a continually growing registered customer loyalty membership in excess of 7000.
Understanding the importance of having a strong digital presence online both as a website and on social media, Cheryl was one of the very first Digital Main Street clients, reaching out to Ben Frisch through the Business Development Centre in Collingwood. “Ben audited our entire social media footprint include the website, and our Facebook and Instragram channels and made some great and simple suggestions to implement and expand that foodprint. He even did a 360 ͦ panoramic photo shoot for our google listing and it was all free” explains Cheryl.
Both Alex and Cheryl prefer the small town feel, and both are foodies who delight in patronizing the extraordinarily high number of ‘independently’ owned (not chain stores) restaurants and cafes serviced by entrepreneurial chefs using local products. Their own unique products are seen as a perfect fit for Collingwood’s growing food movement, and of course, the lifestyle they enjoy in this community is hard to match!
“Seven years on and we are on our third website,” chuckles Cheryl. The first one was essentially a customer resource, educating their customers about the various products, how to best utilize them, and of course access delicious recipes. As time passed, they realised the visiting tourist customers had grown to 20% of their client base, loving the product when visiting, and then asking how they could get more without driving here to get it. Version 2 of the website was born as a result, and offered a full e-commerce platform to manage the secondary online sales, which grew to 2.5% of their total revenues.
Shopping trends change as do customer expectations, and we launched Version 3 to respond to that. “We wanted to provide a great customer experience, no matter how they preferred to shop,” smiles Cheryl. “We learned from the big guys like Loblaws, who had begun offering a click and pay service,“ that better served the busy customer lifestyles and responded to the change in shopping habits that were brought about by the onset of COVID-19. They felt their own website, although offering a full online service, was lacking in the area of choice for shipping. Enhancements were made to include delivery, curbside pick-up, local delivery and shipping across Canada. Online sales revenue jumped to 19%, and their loyal local customer base that held strong at 80% always, was now equally weighted in the online sales for the sheer convenience of it. “We even have a group of families in Nunavut who regularly place a bulk order, and then split the order amongst themselves on arrival” comments Cheryl delightedly! “Alex and I are firm believers that the more we look after our customers, the more they will look after us. We are not tech junkies. We view our website as an investment in our customer service”.
Cheryl’s online business knowledge gained over years of learning and experience, was recognized and appreciated by a large online audience when she was invited as a panelist to the Making Your Business An Online Local Success Story webinar, hosted by the Business Development Centre in 2020.
Looking to the Future
Online is not the only aspect expanding for Collingwood Olive Oil! In the early days Cheryl and Alex attended approximately six markets a week to create awareness for their brand. Now they have replaced that by partnering with five regional speciality food stores that are a good fit to house their products so people can shop closer to home without coming to the Collingwood location. Each is an exclusive location within its own community, and currently includes Stayner, Wasaga Beach, Craigleith, Thornbury and Owen Sound. If you haven’t yet met Alex and Cheryl, find out how you can at www.collingwoodoliveoil.ca