Like a Kid in a Local, Organic, Gourmet Grocers: Oliver’s Market

I love grocery shopping. No seriously, I LOVE GROCERY SHOPPING. According to family lore, when I was a kid, Doe took me to the grocery store and said I could have whatever I wanted. I made a bee-line to the produce aisle. Did I mention how much I love grocery shopping? Marc is eternally amazed (and of course delighted) at the joy I derive from even window shopping for food.

Oliver's Exterior

Look how gussied up they are with their Christmas trees painted on the windows.

Today our house was abuzz with excitement. For a gazillion years (okay, 10 months) we’ve been stalking the progress, practically hour by hour, of the opening of our very own neighborhood Oliver’s Market. Literally within walking distance of our house. Oliver’s is a Sonoma County treasure with two other stores, that we have seriously gone out of our way to go to for a sandwich, or a special item no one else sells.

Today…TODAY! folks, was the grand opening. Marc’s step dad and I were so atwitter, we went twice…in less than four hours. Oliver’s has a strong commitment to local food featuring lots of bread from local bakeries, local cheeses (in their extensive gourmet cheese section with whatever would be the cheese equivalent to sommelier), and signs over their produce department with the day’s count of local foods and organic foods.

Oliver's Signs

To heighten the festivities today, they were even giving away reusable tote bags. What a great idea! Infinitely better for the environment, AND a savvy marketing decision to have hundreds of people walking around town advertising your business.

They’ve obviously done their market research. Most people are right handed. Therefore, most people walk into buildings (grocery stores, movie theaters, etc.) from the right side when they have a choice. May also be a Western thing since we drive on the right as well. So as you walk into the right side of the store, you are greeted by probably the most profitable section, fresh brewed premium coffee. Go a little further and you enter the prepared foods. (Can’t mark up an apple too much, but throw it in the oven with a little cinnamon, and you can easily get three or four dollars for that puppy.)

Oliver's Pastries

Top middle…the white domed cakes…Princess cakes…another dessert obsession inherited from Doe.

Their prepared foods section was sheer nirvana. Let’s start with the pastries. Princess cakes (in all their marzipan goodness), ganache galore, fresh fruit tarts…I think they’d give a Parisian patisserie a run for their money. Then, they have huge pizza ovens with fresh baked rustic gourmet pizza. This ain’t no concession stand at a mega mart. I didn’t look too closely, but they have a taqueria as well. Hot fresh Mexican food! Yum. They even make fresh beautiful sushi. A bona fide sushi chef makes sushi right there. He had samples out and I asked if he had any vegetarian. He said no, but that he’d be happy to make some up right then for us to taste. I swear, I was giddy.

Oliver's Sushi Bar

I was even more excited when I discovered the take-out containers at the salad bar. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and get this, they’re made of 100% sugar cane fiber. The containers are compostable, microwavable, freezer safe, oil resistant, capable of handling boiling water, and wood fiber-free. Since sugar cane is a huge worldwide industry, by turning the fiber into these handy products, we decrease the air pollution normally created by burning it.

More evidence of Oliver’s commitment to sustainability was the strip of bamboo flooring around the edges of the prepared foods section, bulk foods and cosmetics. Bamboo (a grass) is a great renewable resource since it reaches maturity in far less time than the trees usually used for flooring.

Bamboo floor Oliver's

It’s a little hard to tell in the photo, but the bamboo floor is beautiful, oh, and so are the rows of fresh soups, sandwiches, salsas, pizzas…you name it.

Oliver’s is also a typical supermarket with booze and cigarettes, but I hope that by offering local beers and fresh gourmet food, they can serve a variety of people and maybe even educate the public about their choices. I was really impressed with how well they got everything together for the opening and how genuinely friendly each and every staff person was. They were understandably way over staffed for such a big event, but even people who had worked the last 10 days straight to get the store open in time were chipper, helpful and sincerely glad to work there. You really don’t see that everyday.

Oliver's Produce

Colorful and rather extensive produce section.

I also noticed that their hours were 7am to 9pm. I like that. Who really needs to buy milk at five in the morning, huh? If you didn’t think to satisfy your brownie fix or ice cream craving until midnight, you just need to wait until tomorrow. I like that the times allow for employees to lead closer to normal lives without being out until 2am. Just something I noticed.

So, after a full day of farmers marketing, shopping at Oliver’s, shopping at Oliver’s again, I am content. This weekend Marc and I are cooking for a retreat and I am just so pleased that Oliver’s opened in time for me to shop for this event.

Oliver's Pastries2

Had to get one more shot in of their gorgeous pastries. I loved the abstracted hearts on this one.

Did I mention how much I like grocery shopping?

Oliver’s Market
461 Stony Point Rd. (right off Hwy 12)
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

16 thoughts on “Like a Kid in a Local, Organic, Gourmet Grocers: Oliver’s Market”

  1. I love grocery shopping too! And I throw a tantrum if the grocery stocks generic blah crap. LOVE the pastry display (as you may have predicted).

    One nitpick though– the title says “Like a Kid in an Organic, Local, Gourmet Market”– doesn’t that mean you’re bored half to death and looking for where the toys/ candies are? Haha 🙂

  2. Me three! When I go on vacation, I like to go to the grocery store and see what they have in Beaune or Glasgow or Raleigh that we don’t have here. Cameron’s used to it by now, but it’s definitely been the cause of some funny episodes over the years.

    When my family was here for Thanksgiving, I made up excuses to go shopping so I could have some time alone. I spent an hour at the newish Whole Foods hunting down locally made stuff. (It wasn’t totally wasted time; I did find some excellent crackers 🙂 )

  3. Manggy – Yay grocery shopping! I totally agree about the generic crap. I want to see yummy local goodies the locals eat. Glad you liked the pastry display. When I went in the first time, I drooled over them and made sure that when I brought Marc back with me later, he took lots of photos of them.
    As for the nitpick, I actually didn’t understand what you meant and had to ask Marc. He looked at me lovingly and explained that it depends on the kid. It’s so ingrained in me, I can’t imagine being bored. 🙂

    Anita – Looks like we are all kindred souls in our passion for good food. I do the same thing, going into markets where ever I travel, to see what the locals eat. When I was in North Carolina recently, I couldn’t stop investigating what strange prepared foods they were selling at the gas station “quickie mart”. Banana puddin’ was the most unrecognizable to me, and a kind southern black woman enlightened me. I know I’m going to have to go back into Oliver’s at least one more time this week…and I can’t wait.

  4. This is such a beautiful grocery store. But what makes me even more excited is the fact that others like to blog about grocery stores too! 🙂 You’re lucky you didn’t get stopped by a “no picture policy” like I did in Whole Foods once.

  5. Hillary – It really is beautiful. Marc’s step dad and I were joking about piling up the free tote bags in a corner of the store and making it a slumber party 😉

    Actually, when we went back the second time, with the intention of taking pictures, I went up to the general manager first thing, introduced myself, and asked if I could take pictures for my food blog. He said it was fine and I gave him my card. Later I asked about the take out containers and they got right to it, calling the other store to fax over the information they had on it. Very cool. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  6. I love going to grocery stores so much that when I visit new cities, I go to their local markets–sometimes more than once. I think it’s a great way to learn about local cuisine and meet people. Plus, how could I ever make it a week without going to the market?

    -a grocery store geek in San Diego

  7. Susan – I thought it was just me. I had no idea so many foodies out there also got giddy at the idea of grocery shopping. It’s so true that food shopping shows so much about what the locals eat and who they are. Thanks for confessing your grocery store geekness here, on Figs with Bri 😉

  8. I just discovered your blog from your lemon curd post on Craftster.
    I’ve just fallen in love with food in a way I can’t explain.
    As soon as I get home from work I’m going to start exploring the beautiful, amazing world of cooking!
    Just wanted to tell you to keep up the awesome work–

  9. Natalie – Hey, thanks for coming on over to my blog and for your encouragement. Since you can see that food is one of my great passions, I’m thrilled to hear you’ve discovered it’s yours as well. The internet has truly helped me develop as a cook. As you delve into this great world of food, I also suggest hanging out at food aggregators like and for some amazing inspiration and recipes. You just never know what you’ll see that will set you in a whole new culinary direction.

  10. Bri – that’s awesome! Smart of you to give out a card for your blog at the same time! 🙂

    On another note, I wanted to include you in Chew on That’s next Monthly Mouthful but I noticed you didn’t have an e-mail address on your site. If you’re interested, please e-mail me at chewonthatblog[at]gmail[dot]com. I’d love to include you!

  11. Hillary – Thanks! I wish I had thought it through enough to be a little more presentable at the time, but we can’t have everything, huh?

    I’ve remedied the email thing and put it on my about me page. I’ll check out your monthly mouthful. I’m a little new to all these great blogging events so I need to brush up on yours.

  12. I do grocery shopping when am bored too. The sight of so many fresh fruits and veggies is indeed refreshing. I envy you for having such a good store nearby. It should be really helpful for you as a personal chef.

  13. Suganya – It really is a treat to have such a great store so incredibly close. It has already made this weekend’s retreat cooking simpler since I need to get some last minute things, and I won’t have to go across town. I love that so many other people enjoy food shopping as much as I do. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Wow, what a great store. We have a local place along the same lines and I adore it. Except for the mobs of people this time of year.

  15. Living in Sebastopol, I’ve been salivating waiting for this Oliver’s to open. Thanks to your blog, I won’t make the mistake of driving to the other side of Santa Rosa today! Thanks!

  16. Tammy – Aren’t we lucky to have incredible stores like these. What a treat. I actually don’t mind the mobs of people so much when I’m grocery shopping. It often means more people to talk to.

    Michael – So glad to be of services. No need to drive clear across town anymore. Yay! I just went yesterday on my way home from a day in Marin, and was able to just pop into Oliver’s and buy two things. How convenient! Enjoy!

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