The South End’s Hidden Gem: Olives & Grace

Olives & Grace, Bio Card Drea
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I LOVE finding treasure.

When I stumbled into Olives & Grace, I found world-class treasure, in both the store’s wares and its delightful owner Sofi Madison (even if Alex L. beat me to the punch).

Sofi wholeheartedly believes in her treasures – Olives & Grace’s motto is ‘a curtsy to the makers.’ The Maker movement – defined by Wired’s Chris Anderson as ‘where the latest in digital technology meets the classic do-it-yourself (DIY) world of crafting and small scale construction’ – is exploding right now. Look no further than SOWA, etsy, Olives & Grace, and the buy local movement to see a boom in artisans who pursue their dream of creating (small batches of) products they are passionate about.

Almost inherently, when one pours blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the hard-won lessons of starting one’s own business, like licensing, packaging, (the list goes on), the results are of higher-quality than mass produced goods.

For Sofi, whose own journey took her to San Francisco before coming back to Boston, her store, open since mid-August, is an opportunity to tell the stories of high-quality products, made by real people who often are making the world a better a place while they’re at it. It’s ambitious to say the least for both the artisans and Sofi, who has an obvious knack for marketing, but no previous experience in running her own retail store. She’s learning the ropes as she goes and allowing herself to be comfortable with risk as she does it.

The products featured at Olives & Grace, with their focus on high-quality ingredients and elegant packaging, complement each other nicely. This is best showcased by the Olives & Grace gift boxes – of which there are two options monthly. Each month, Sofi makes it painless by grouping five or six products together for you, with Bio cards – made by Bessie of B.Impressed from Jamaica Plain – that tell the unique story of each product. But if you have the inclination, the time and a discerning eye, you can build one yourself. It puts a much classier spin on the average house-warming (dinner party, birthday, holiday) gift. Be honest – you normally just pick up a cheap-ish bottle of wine and call it a day.

If you popped into Olives & Grace today, here’s a taste of what you could find:

  •  Tea Cuvée, made by Evy, Boston based small-batch tea company
  • Doves & Figs, made by Robin, Arlington based fruit preserves
  • Vianne Chocolat, made by Valerie in Boston. (Truffle making class coming to Olives & Grace soon!)
  • Foret Floral Design – make your own terrariums! Made by Rose and Erin in Somerville.
  • Alex’s Ugly Sauce – Hot sauce; uses local ingredients like those grown at Stillman’s Farm
  • Scout Soap – Made in Brooklyn. For each bar purchased, a Scout Soap is given to someone in need. Also, smells so good.
  • Figs Ties – A Los Angeles-based necktie company. For each tie sold, a uniform is donated to a school child in need in Africa.
  • Prosperity Candle – Based in Easthampton MA, Prosperity Candles employs female refugees and trains them. The candle maker receives the profits for the candles sold.
  • Cocoa Prieto – Chocolate made from a family-owned cocoa farm in the Domincan Republic, manufactured in Brooklyn.

For those of us who are dabbling with the Maker movement, would like to get involved or have already taken the plunge, Sofi’s offering classes and events as well. Most classes are small – 6 to 7 people – that feature a local artisan, samples and some treats for attendees. Expect these to fill up quickly, so stay on top of them and plan your birthday party way in advance. Don’t forget to invite Sofi out with you after, because girlfriend is awesome.