Couple sets sail on olive oil

Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Off the Water photos/CRAIG HAUPERT Chris and Jerry Ouding own three Indiana stores specializing in olive oil.

GRANGER — Prior to opening The Olive Branch in Granger, Ind.’s Toscana Park more than four years ago, owners Chris and Jerry Ouding’s compass was pointing in a very different direction: out to sea.

A ship was being built for them in South Africa, and they planned to sail it slowly around the globe.

Chris and Jerry Ouding put off sailing around the world to open The Olive Branch in Granger, Ind.’s Toscana Park more than four years ago.

The Oudings decided to put their dream of sailing on hold after visiting an olive oil shop in Chicago. They were swept away by the store’s unique charm, atmosphere and service.

“We spoke a lot with the owner that night and ended up with about $100 worth of products,” Chris said. “Two weeks later, we were in the olive oil business.

We had to cancel the boat, but, luckily, we got our money back.”

The Oudings sell their products in three Indiana locations: Granger, Goshen and Shipshewana.

They used their experience in Chicago as inspiration for their business.

The main shop in Granger has more than 30 stainless steel containers, called fustis, which contain and dispense the extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The oils are imported from all over the world and the balsamics are imported from Modena, Italy, the balsamic capital of the world.

Customers can taste and mix the products before buying them. All the oils are fresh, extra virgin and first cold pressed.
“Once people are in the store and taste the oils and vinegars, they are definitely hooked,” Chris said. “We’ll give you a description of our oils and vinegars and what you can do with them, but we really encourage customers to go around and mix and taste for themselves.”

Not only is extra virgin olive oil tasty, Chris says, it is healthy, too. Studies have shown that consuming olive oil can lower blood pressure, lower sugar levels and improve heart health.

The Olive Branch also carries other high-quality food lines, such as Robert Rothschild dips and products from Wind & Willow, the Salt Sisters and Enrico Formella. They also have many gluten-free items for sale.

“Our mission was to bring Granger some of the best products from around the world and to educate people on them and their health benefits,” Chris said. “In my opinion, we have some of the best EVOOs and balsamic vinegars you can buy anywhere.”

For more information, visit The Olive Branch’s webstie at

Olive Branch’s strawberry field salad

• Romaine lettuce or spinach
• Fresh strawberries
• 1 can of Mandarin oranges
• A bag of dried cranberries
• A bag of Almond Accents (optional)
• Chicken breast, cubed or sliced
• The Olive Branch’s Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

Cook the chicken breast and cube it, using 1 to 2 breasts.
Or, use the Tyson Chicken Chunks in your grocer’s freezer. They only take 10 minutes to heat on the stove. Let the meat cool.
Rinse the lettuce and chop into pieces. Put in a large bowl.
Rinse the strawberries, slice and add them to the bowl with the lettuce.
Add the dried cranberries to the salad. Add the chicken breast to the salad.
Drain the can of Mandarin oranges and put over the top of the salad.
They can be cut in half first in order to get smaller, bite-size pieces. Put the butter toffee almond accents over the top of the salad and drizzle The Olive Branch’s Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar over everything and toss.