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Further Olive Tree Cultivation
The Olive Tree Marketplace in Staten Island is the first store to operate under that banner, but it won't be the only one for long: The construction of another location is already well underway.
"We are developing as we speak a project in Denville, N.J., that's under construction right now, and that should be done in about three months," Olive Tree Marketplace co-owner Dave Shehadeh tells PG during a store visit at the end of January. "It's going to be the same concept, same banner."
David J. Lee, president of Mount Vernon, N.Y.-based Creative Space Design, who worked on the Staten Island location, is now busy with the Denville store, which Shehadeh promises "is going be bigger, so we're going to have even more variety" than in the inaugural market.
When the next store finally opens, one particularly promiment customer will be eager to pay a visit. "Dean Janeway, [CEO] of Key Food, he lives five minutes away from our [Denville] location, so he's pushing for us to open up as soon as possible," says Shehadeh. "We're going to open up in his backyard, so to say."
The chance of future locations beyond those two is looking good as well. "A lot of builders right now that own shopping centers, they're all coming to us and they want us to open the same-concept store in their shopping center," confides Shehadeh.
Planting a Family Tree
Olive Tree Marketplace may be a Key Food banner, but the idea for the concept sprang straight from the minds of the six Shehadeh brothers, co-owners of the store with gourmet chef Hani Qassis.
An early challenge was "finding the name to fit with the concept," admits Dave Shehadeh. "My brother Wally came up with the name 'Olive Tree,' with what the olive tree provided for different cultures. You know, the olive tree could live for thousands of years, and it provided food for dozens of cultures. So that was the reason behind our concept."
According to Shehadeh, the tree "represents life, it represents peace, it represents all the good things in today's world and culture," freighted as it is with mythological, biblical and political meaning. The Staten Island store even features olive tree saplings in pots as a design element.
Along with the symbolism, a key part of the concept involves Qassis’ Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, much of it created, naturally enough, with olive oil. "We met on a few occasions," recounts Shehadeh of how he connected with the chef. "I heard a lot of good things about him, and the same thing, he heard a lot of good things about us, because we have four existing Key Foods in Brooklyn. What we wanted to do is make something new. We [wanted to] come out [of] the box and give the people something that they couldn't get from anyplace else. We wanted to make a new brand, a new line."