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The Hustle

Name: James Ryan (Kalamazoo Olive Company)

Posted By AA Catalyst

Behind every great dish is a secret that James Ryan knows better than just about anyone - fresh olive oil. When Ryan moved to St. Petersburg in 2010, he knew that the city was missing that one essential ingredient. Ryan has made it his mission to show St. Pete the light ever since. He is the founder of the Kalamazoo Olive Company, the longest running olive oil provider in the Tampa Bay area and a staple of Central Avenue. In spring of 2019, Kalamazoo moved from its downtown home of the last nine years to a new home in the Edge District. Kalamazoo is back and better than ever; check out its new location at 1008 Central Ave.

Years in Tampa Bay

Since 2010 – nearly a decade ago!

Hustle (job)

Owner, founder, president. Those titles seem a little too fancy. Just a guy, who really likes olive oil, friends and good food.

What do you do?  

Own Kalamazoo Olive Company, Tampa Bay’s longest running olive oil and balsamic vinegar store.

Why do you do it?

People depend on us! We used to laugh and joke that our products will change our customers’ lives. After nearly a decade in business, we now know that to be true. Once you use our authentic extra virgin olive oils in your cooking, you will be hooked.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I was hungry. When I moved to St. Petersburg in 2010, there was nothing like an “olive oil” store. I had to cook (and eat) and I just couldn’t do it without fresh, authentic olive oil.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Most misconceptions I hear are about extra virgin oil oil.

The color of olive oil is related to its quality. FALSE. Color has no bearing on quality.

Olive oil gets better with age. FALSE. The fresher, the better. That’s why we source globally, from Chile, South America, Australia, to Europe and North Africa and California.

Extra virgin olive oil is for cold or raw use only. FALSE. The smoke point is very high with fresh-pressed olive oil. Olive oil is one of the most stable cooking oils, provided it is fresh.

The best olive oil comes from (insert country: Italy, Spain, Greece). FALSE. The best olive oils are the freshest (youngest) olive oils.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

Finding and sourcing the best olive oil around the world. Staying ahead of the “copy-cats” and always providing our fans with the “best of the best” food products.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

A former supervisor I had while finishing my undergrad degree used to quote Maya Angelou. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Good advice, especially when building business relationships.

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