Olive oil specialist brings products to Columbia

Mary Burke (left) is pictured by the display of her olive oils at Magnolia in Columbia, owned by Deb Cox (right). (Robyn Dexter photo)

For Mary Burke, olive oil is what can make or break a meal or dish. She swears by it.

Burke started showcasing her olive oils at Magnolia in Columbia just a few weeks ago and hopes the people of Monroe County will be receptive to trying it.

Burke owns two stores, one in Edwardsville and one in Kirkwood, Mo.

She calls getting into the olive oil business a “light bulb moment,” having grown up in an Italian family.

“(Our family) was in the restaurant industry, so I knew good olive oil,” she said.

After many of her knowledgeable family members died, Burke said she was having trouble finding good olive oil that was up to the standards she had always known.

She was going out to the San Francisco area on another position she had and found a retailer and supplier, Veronica Foods.

“I signed on the dotted line,” she said. “They’re not really franchises. I’m representing her company, which has been in business since 1924.”

She came back to the Midwest and decided to start in Edwardsville.

Since then, she barely holds still. Burke travels the nearly 40 miles between the Edwardsville and Kirkwood locations, along with stopping in at Magnolia in Columbia occasionally.

“There’s olive oil in the stores right now not far from here that’s not even pressed from olives,” she said, shaking her head. “That’s so unfortunate for the consumer. If you pay for an extra virgin olive oil, that’s exactly what you should get.”

Burke showcases 100 percent extra virgin olive oil from producers in Australia, California, Chile, Spain and Tunisia. Along with the high-standard extra virgin olive oil, she also sells a long list of flavored and infused olive oils.

“It’s just a wonderful application in the kitchen,” she said. “Any dish you use these in, it brings it up a level.”

She said customers have been receptive to her products. When she looked for a place to sell in Columbia, she called the city and was linked up with Deb Cox of Magnolia. Burke said she fell in love with the little shop, which is located at 208 N. Main Street.

“Olive oil is a labor of love,” she said. “You absolutely have to get behind your products.”

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