I was born in Canada to Greek immigrants, and would spend my summers in Greece with my parents. My olive oil story begins in Astros – a little seaside village in the Peloponnese province of Greece. It is there where I first met my cousin, Theodoros Karras, who spoke no English and I could only speak a few words of Greek. Since then I have learned to speak Greek and he has learned to say two or three words in English.
The years went by, I went to school and he worked on his olive trees. After graduation, I worked in the family business of property management and he worked on his olive trees. I became a real estate developer and he worked on his olive trees. Every summer I would go to Greece and bring home some of his amazing olive oil. At first it was a refilled 1.5 liter coke bottle, later I was bringing back a suit case full of 1.5 liter bottles for me and my friends.
Golden Bless extra virgin olive oil is lifelong passion of Theodoros. He grows tiny green olives called Manakia on the hillsides of the family estate. They are picked and then cold pressed into unique light smooth buttery oil. The acidity levels are super low and the nutritional value is high. The olive oil has no burn or bitterness as many of the other varieties have. My cousin’s dream was to bottle his olive oil and bring it to America.
More than likely his oil has made it to America in a bottle label of “product of Italy” as Italians would come and purchase all his and his neighbors oil. He claims that he was born under an olive tree and hopes to die there too.
10 years ago I retired and was spending more time in Astros. Theodoros was constantly asking me to help him to bring his oil to America. He had researched all sorts of facts and figures on the North American market. I tried to avoid him but when he started showing up my hangout — Jack’s Taverna, he took advantage of me at my weakest moments, when I was drinking. He is so persistent I have now nicknamed him Teddy Harass. He had come up with a name for his olive oil, Golden Bless.
I said I didn’t like the name and we hired a marketing firm. It cost us 3,000 euros to be told Golden Bless was the perfect name. The story behind the name is that in ancient times olive oil was “blessed” and Hypocrites called it liquid “gold.” After some serious consideration (3 or 4 drinks) I came up with our corporate name “Golden Bless America.” I wanted God Bless America, but it was already taken. Labels were designed and printed, bottles and tins were filled and a container was loaded. The oil set sail to Canada.
The container finally arrived in Calgary in May, I opened the door and was immediately baptised by oil pouring out. We had the container loaded loose, boxes stacked up floor to ceiling with no pallets. About ¼ of the tins had tipped, bent, ruptured and emptied. Oil was pouring out all over the parking lot of our warehouse. I felt like crying, but I reassured myself that after all we had insurance. They were notified and I was told to take lots of pictures and a marine surveyor would come to inspect. The container had to be emptied to avoid further environmental disaster.
The container was unloaded, we were all drenched in olive oil. We spent 3 days salvage all we could. It took a week to clean the undamaged tins that were covered with oil. The marine surveyor after 6 days arrived and concluded that it was the fault of the bottler who had loaded the container improperly which meant insurance did not cover our loss. Recovering our losses with the bottler did not go well and now we are using a new bottler. Subsequent shipments have all been made using pallets.
The story of Golden Bless doesn’t end here, it actually is just the beginning. Right now I have to load up the Goldenblessmobile and drive 700 kilometers from Calgary to Saskatoon to deliver 70 cases to our newest customer. I could ship them but feel that on as many deliveries as possible especially the first it means a lot to our customers to have that personal touch, and besides I can pick up the cheque. I have traveled thousands of miles to seek out customers in Canada who can appreciate an amazing olive oil at a bargain price. What I have learned in my travels is if I can get them to try it, they will buy it.