Karen Fulton knows a good thing when she sees it. Two an half years ago, “a friend of a friend” introduced her to a condiment retailer that struck her as a unique destination for anyone who appreciates premium food ingredients.
“There are a lot of intelligent people out there whose passion it is to buy and prepare good food -- with all of the intricacies that go in preparing food,” Fulton said. “You get that with oils and vinaigrettes.”
Fulton and her husband have spent the past two-and-half years as one of six interests that own Carter & Cavero, a premium oil and vinaigrette retailer that also sells a host of complementary foods such as tapenades and pastas.
Since the Fultons joined the company, the retailer has added two new stores - one in Princeton on Father’s Day in 2010, and now their latest store here in Summit, on 11 Beechwood Avenue, which opened for business on August 9.
Summit, Fulton said, is an ideal location because of its high foot traffic downtown and upper crust demographic, which suggests stronger interest in food and purchasing power.
“We did a lot of studies demographically as to what areas would be a best match for what we are offering,” Fulton said. “With our oils and vinegars, you need interest from foodies and a flow of (foot) traffic. Obviously Summit is ideal. We are located close to the train station and the other businesses around that are successful such as the Starbucks and the other boutiques here.”
The retailer offers a unique customer experience. Its olive oils are presented in extra virgin form or infused or flavored, which accounts for quite a bit of the popularity. Its line of vinaigrettes follow the same presentation convention, athough the flavors are differnt from those in the olive oils.
To create a great flavorful experience, Carter & Cavero offers the ability to sample every olive oil and vinaigrette the store has to offer. As patrons enter the store, they are greeted with a long counter of olive oils and vinaigrettes which can be sampled with small pieces of bread. It’s an approach to sales that leads customers firstly into the store, and secondly, to all of the other specialty foods and products in the store.
“Oils and vinaigrettes are 70% of the business,” Fulton said. All of the additional products are complementary to other foods for sale in the store. For example, “the complement to your pastas is your pestos and to your sauces and we also have mustards and spices, whether that is going to be salt or paprika,” Fulton said. “Then we have an olive station, which is part and parcel to the whole business and how they work with tapenades.”
Carter & Cavero also carries terracotta bakeware, olive tree bowls and cooking utensils, teas, pasta sauces, pico, tortas and crackers, handmade pottery from “Tito” a master Spanish pottery artist, and beauty products such as shampoos and cremes made with olive oil and hand made soaps.
Still other elements of the business include hosting fundraiser events and tasting events.
For fundraisers and private groups, Carter & Cavero hosts olive oil tastings. With fundraisers, 10% of anything purchased at the event will be donated to the sponsor's charity or cause.
Tasting events are currently being planned for the Summit store. In March, the retailer hosted a “Sensational Salts Weekend,” in which all of its New Jersey locations (Red Bank, Long Branch and Princeton at the time) introduced a new line of salts from around the world. Local chefs created specialty dish samples using the salts.
Until the tasting events are scheduled, Carter & Cavero will be at the Summit Farmer’s Market through November introducing their oils and vinaigrettes to market-goers, and has scheduled a grand opening celebration for Saturday, September 17th from 4pm to 7pm at the store. Summit Mayor Jordan Glatt will be participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony. Food and drinks will be offered to guests in honor of the event.