Word is out around Saugerties: Olsen & Company, the cafe and specialty grocery store that opened on Partition Street in June 2017, is exactly what the town needed. With its selection of quick, healthy salads and sandwiches, delectable fresh-baked goods, organic coffee and espresso, and all sorts of other goodies to bring home, it has become a go-to shop in the village. Sourcing mostly from local suppliers, Olsen & Co. carries a unique array of cheeses, jams, syrups, sauces, pasta, honey, herbs, meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as home and body care products. It’s a specialty place, but not so special that it’s not extremely useful; it offers solid value and top quality.
“ We are careful and thoughtful about each ingredient we put into our prepared foods, and every product we stock our shelves with. ”
–Marianne Olsen, co-owner
The concept of Olsen & Company (O &Co for short) began in the Saugerties countryside and is a collaborative venture. Marianne Olsen was one of the many children of young families in the 60s who, seeking fresh air and open spaces, relocated upstate from Brooklyn. She eventually met and married a man from Saugerties and together they raised five children on a piece of land gifted by his family.
As a lover of cooking and eating good fresh food, Marianne found herself doing some catering for commercial shoots and recording studios, as well as some private chef work for well-known musicians. The Olsen Family Farm, a collaboration with daughter Elizabeth who had gone to college for animal science, began producing goats’ milk soaps that they could sell online and at farmers markets and craft fairs where they met producers of fine artisanal foods. Meanwhile, the Olsens tossed around the dream of opening the sort of place they wished they could find when shopping downtown. Another family member, Janelle Olsen-Leipheimer, turned out to be the missing piece to this vision, and was just the right fit. The perfect space opened up, and it was time.
O&Co is a long-polished dream that’s been realized with love and hard work. “Our lifestyle is very similar to the one we promote through our business,” says Marianne. “We appreciate well-made products, especially from local, small businesses. From our homes to our food to how we spend our free time, we are careful in our selections. We believe in slowing down and appreciating what the beautiful Hudson Valley has to offer. We value family and time spent together, especially when it includes good food and great wine.”
Growing up in the Saugerties countryside, neither Elizabeth nor Janelle had thought that they’d find professional fulfillment right in the village.
But life is truly what happens while you’re making other plans. “I grew up thinking I would never stay here,” says Elizabeth. “I went away for college and moved to Pennsylvania for a short period. Then I realized the Hudson Valley had turned into a place that was really unique and had a lot to offer me. Now I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
Janelle, meanwhile, had headed to the big city to study fashion, and stayed a while. “I spent 10 years living the fast-paced life,” she says. “I decided it was time to slow down, so I left the city to move back to Saugerties. And I found I’d never realized how special this town was.”
It’s a specialty place, but not so special that it’s not extremely useful; it offers solid value and top quality.
“As consumers ourselves, we wanted a place to purchase great cheese, fresh bread, and other provisions under one roof,” says Elizabeth. “Since something like that didn’t exist here, we thought why not just open it ourselves? It was years before the perfect spot was available and the timing was right in all of our lives. The final push for us was the agreement from Janelle to be our third partner. She moved back to Saugerties at the perfect time, and now we know we could’ve never done this without her. The storefront was ideal for us as a new business; we didn’t want to take on too much, and it was a blank slate—small, cute, and quaint. Not to mention, Partition Street is absolutely the most prime location for a business in Saugerties.”
The team set about working with local distributors, learning how to use an espresso machine properly, and “tasting a lot of cheese,” they recall. Not all relatives make great coworkers, but these three do. “The dynamic between the three of us as owners is unique. Sometimes it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s a little hard. Sometimes it’s really hard.
Most of the time we have a great time working together. We’re family so that can go both ways. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing a good bottle of wine can’t fix. We each have different strengths, and we work together harmoniously to get the job done. And we love not having a boss. We—us three—are the boss.”
A shared philosophy informs their business practices. “We try to be very honest about what we’re offering. We are careful and thoughtful about each ingredient we put into our prepared foods, and every product we stock our shelves with. We taste before we buy or serve something. We try to keep our prices fair. We buy organic when we can. We’re always open to new ideas and suggestions from our customers.
We want to know our customers and what they like or are looking for when they come into our shop. If we can’t help them, we always do our best to send them to someone who can.” However, the commitment to customer service at Olsen & Co is paramount. “Our services are limitless,” they say. “We offer organic coffee, clean, locally sourced food, and a wide variety of local products.
We want to be able to offer options for everyone, so we do our best to cater to most dietary restrictions. We want to make people happy, so there isn’t much we wouldn’t do to accommodate our customers. Last year, we even baked 30 pre-ordered Thanksgiving pies.”
Not surprisingly, their skills and spirit have won hearts, minds, and taste buds. “We’ve learned that every business has something different to offer. Even if someone else may be carrying a similar product or serving a similar dish, everyone does things a little differently. One business can’t cater to every person. And within a small community, it’s best to encourage and support other businesses. We also think, as consumers, it’s important to spread your love and try to support each business in different ways.”
With the adventure heading toward its second birthday, the Olsens couldn’t be happier with their progress—“People are still walking through the door! And we’re still here!”—and are thinking it might be fun to be able to offer even more of the good things they and their customers love. “We’d love to be able to accommodate more customers. It’s a challenge to keep from buying 35 kinds of amazing jam! Seriously, we need a bigger space. It’s not quite a plan yet, we’re not sure when or if, but we’re open to it and on the lookout for the next place we can make our own.”
“ We believe in slowing down and appreciating what the beautiful Hudson Valley has to offer. ”
That low hum you hear is the purr of approval of lovers of fine, fresh, local food and stunning coffee. Would you like yours to be drip, pour over, espresso, cappuccino, or cold brew? I’ll take mine with a shot of maple syrup and a chocolate chip hemp cookie. Mmmm.
Olsen & Co is open for breakfast and lunch every day but Tuesday.
Olsen & Company
81 Partition Street, Saugerties