As Carmen Lambert was thinking of returning to the workforce after raising her young kids, she knew owning her own business was in the cards. As she searched for business opportunities, she was struck by news stories about adulterated olive oil and outright fraud. So she took action.
After studying the industry, the one-time Norwex consultant and school volunteer signed a distribution agreement with Veronica Foods and opened The Hat’s Olive Tap in downtown Medicine Hat on August 15, 2016.
The Hat’s Olive Tap is a new experience in Medicine Hat, but one that has taken root in North America over the past decade. In fact, Veronica Foods distributes to over 900 olive oil tasting rooms in Canada and the United States. Carmen estimates that there are about a dozen in Alberta alone.
“I love watching the transformation happening downtown,” Carmen says as she looks out the window of her Second Street shop. “It seems to have inspired people to get out for a walk and check out what’s happening.”
“There’s a different customer service experience at artisan shops,” she says, noting that she always has three people on the floor to spend time with customers. Indeed, the passion Carmen and her staff of five have for pure ingredients and healthy eating is impossible to ignore.
Affordable rent and growing foot traffic in downtown Medicine Hat opens the possibility for more boutique shops that can offer the experience Carmen talks about. “There are a lot of things that people would be surprised there’s a market for,” she explains, citing her own business as an example. “It’s exciting to think of more specialty shops opening downtown.”
For anyone with entrepreneurial ambitions, The Hat’s Olive Tap is shaping up to be a model for others who are looking to set up shop in a niche industry. And with fresh olive oil flying off the shelves and customers returning for more, Carmen has proven that there’s an appetite for healthy, specialty food in Medicine Hat.