Coincidence. Or maybe destiny. Larry and Carol Jack traveled an interesting journey, ultimately landing at at Lake Oconee and anchoring their business.  Larry, a Doctor of Chiropractic, and Carol, a Chemical Engineer, lived and worked in the Atlanta suburbs but hadn’t met until they sat next to each other on a flight to California in 1999.  They quickly discovered that they came from similar zip codes but were relocating to the west coast, both on the same plane, moving for new jobs. Four hours later, stepping off the plane, they traded contact information and promised to get together soon. And soon it was. They had dinner the following evening and were married a year later.

Larry retired in 2005 at age 55, but eight years later found himself yearning for more. “I wanted a new adventure, a new passion, something exciting and different,” he says. He didn’t know why, but Georgia was calling him back, so he convinced Carol, who could work remotely from anywhere, to move back to the Southeast.  While searching for a place to settle, the Jacks stayed with friends in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Exploring the mountain village, they wandered into Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company. Even though they had no idea of the history, culture, and process inside every bottle, “We were immediately intrigued and drawn into this unknown world of olive oils and balsamic vinegars,” says Larry.

Larry and Carol became frequent visitors to the shop, got to know the owners, asked lots of questions about how the store came to be, and what it took to open. Finally, it clicked. “I asked myself ‘why not?’” Larry remembers. “My lifelong passion had always been helping and teaching others how to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle through chiropractic services. So why not refuel that energy in oil and vinegar, advocating a cleaner way of cooking and eating.”  They had a passion, but not a place. Looking all over the Southeast, nowhere felt right until they heard about a small town in central Georgia. “Greensboro was just a speck on the map for us,” says Larry, “but we made the visit thinking ‘nothing to lose.’” Driving into Reynolds Lake Oconee, they were captivated by the natural beauty, the lake, the many golf courses, and the nearby downtown area. Things quickly fell into place.  Larry and Carol purchased a home in Reynolds in April 2014 and retail space in Lake Oconee Village two months later. They entered into a licensing agreement with a third-generation, family-owned business in California called Veronica Foods that imports award-winning varieties of premium extra-virgin olive oils and naturally flavored and infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The 90-year-old company is now run by the founder’s granddaughter and supplies more than 700 stores across the country.

After training with Veronica Foods and stocking the shelves of the new space, Plantation Olive Oil was born. But it needed a “look with a meaning,” so the Jacks had a custom logo created for their storefront and bottles that showcased Lake Oconee, paying homage to the site where their dreams became reality.  Among the most popular varieties of olive oil are Tuscan Herb, Wild Mushroom and Sage, and Blood Orange; favorite balsamic vinegars include Traditional 18-Year, Fig, and Dark Chocolate. “We carry over 30 olive oils and 40 balsamic vinegars in the store,” Larry explains.  “You won’t find this grade or variety in any grocery store.” The shop also sells uncooked pastas, an array of fresh herbs, even all-natural beauty products—soaps, body wash, hair care, balms, candles, and men’s aftershave. “At the heart of these products is 100% extra-virgin olive oil with no preservatives, color additives, chemicals, and they are hypoallergenic for all skin types,” says Larry. 

The premise of the store is to offer tastings before purchasing, a common custom in Europe that Carol and Larry take seriously. “We want our customers to stay awhile, try all the flavors, learn about the different combinations, and hopefully walk out feeling confident and ready to try something new and healthy in the kitchen.” Their oils and vinegars are also being poured in many local restaurants, including The National Tavern and The Creek Club inside Reynolds Lake Oconee.

The Pour, The Merrier

If Larry and Carol Jack want to teach their customers anything, it’s that olive oil and balsamic vinegar can be used every day and not only in salad dressings. And with a wide variety of flavors, it’s the mixing and matching of their products that can spice up the most common dishes.  At breakfast, drizzle Fig vinegar over chopped up apples on oatmeal, or substitute Butter oil and Maple vinegar for syrup on pancakes and waffles. Liven up chicken breasts by coating before cooking them with Pomegranate vinegar and Basil oil. For a tantalizing combination of savory and sweet, marinate lamb burgers in Herbs de Provence oil and Lavender vinegar before grilling.  And finish the meal with the taste of key lime pie by drizzling Persian Lime oil and Coconut vinegar over vanilla ice cream; add a splash of rum for a pretend Piña Colada.

 

 

Photography by Terry Allen

 

 

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