Back in the autumn of 1984, Charles Carey sold his farm in Cornwall to set out on a new career. Inspired by his girlfriend who managed the Elizabeth David shop in Pimlico, and her boss Bryan Llewellyn, he drove out to Tuscany to search out an olive oil producer, and returned with as many cases as he could squeeze into the boot.
The Elizabeth David shop was (hardly surprisingly) his first customer. Later, he married the manager, Sika. Partridges, then in Sloane Street, was his second, and remains one some 35 years later.
Then, in January 1985, Tuscany was hit but a very severe frost which killed many of the olive trees. Tuscan oil became virtually unobtainable, but at least it gave olive oil a lot of publicity. The first supplier closed their press, never to reopen it again, but others came along, and most of them still are suppliers. Badia a Coltibuono was introduced to us by their wine importer, Marina Colonna by the wine and food writers, Cyril and Elizabeth Ray.
And so it went on, with new products being added to the list. Nut oils from France, balsamic vinegars from Modena, olive oils from South Africa and more, all from small producers who created lovely products with care and attention.
At first, The Oil Merchant was just Charles and his van. Then it was Charles and Sika. A succession of (mostly) lovely van-drivers came, often from New Zealand, to do the delivering, and then we needed help in the office too. Now, Ken is the van driver. Kate is in the office, and our Issy is our marketing manager. It is to her you should write with any comments about her new website.