Today we chat with Bethany Perkins, the founder of Midtown Olive Oil right here in Raleigh.
This Q&A is a part of our series called interviews with locals where we interview local Raleigh business owners and entrepreneurs to share their story with our community.
Where did you grow up and go to school? How long have you lived in Raleigh?
Most of my childhood was spent in Jamestown, NC, which is just outside of Greensboro. I went to Southwest Guilford High School and then NC State University for college.
How did you get into the industry you are in now?
Funny story. I have always been into baking and cooking, ever since I was a child. Eleven years ago, my husband, oldest son and I went on a skiing trip to Park City, Utah. I have a cousin who lives there, and he and his wife invited us over for dinner one night.
As Kate prepared our exquisite dinner, I kept noticing these green bottles that all looked the same: oil for bread dipping, balsamic for de-glazing a pan, both to make a vinaigrette. The quality and flavor were amazing and so I asked Kate where she purchased the olive oils and balsamic vinegar’s.
She told me a friend of hers had recently opened a gourmet store of sorts on Main Street, handed me a coupon and told me to check it out.
I did and came back to Raleigh with at least 10 bottles. Ten months later, I opened my first location in North Hills.
Give us your 30 second elevator pitch for your business?
Inspire your taste buds with over 50 varieties of the highest quality extra virgin olive oils and specialty oils imported fresh from around the world and balsamic vinegar’s from Modena, Italy.
We also carry olive oil-based bath & body products, fine kitchen linens, gourmet accessories and a large variety of specialty food products, some unique to our area, and others sourced from right here in North Carolina.
Stop by our Raleigh, Greensboro or New Bern shops and taste before you buy, then watch as your selections are freshly poured, corked, and sealed.
Most popular item that you sell at your business?
Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and 18-Year Aged Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.
Your favorite item that you sell at your business?
Our single cultivar, Ultra-Premium Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oils. They are all tested at the time of harvest to ensure they have the ideal chemical makeup, including a high antioxidant & Omega 9 Fatty Acid count, and low Free Fatty Acid and Peroxide numbers.
Ultra-Premium is the highest certification an olive oil can receive and only about 2% of the world’s population of Olive Oil holds it.
Everything we sell is Ultra-Premium Certified or is made with an Ultra-Premium based oil. You cannot get this sort of quality anywhere else around!
What would a traveler learn about Raleigh by coming to your business?
We have a large variety of items that are unique and hard to find, yet our price points are across the board, making the store appealing and affordable for any budget.
Our customer service and (gift) presentation are on point.
Lastly, with three locations, being in business for over 10 years and a thriving internet presence, we can maintain customers even when they return home. With all this said, Raleigh is a very savvy, and successful city!
If you had a friend visiting, where in Raleigh would you take them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Best thing about living in Raleigh?
There is a large variety of activities to appease most everyone, whether one enjoys the arts, restaurants, bars, sports or shopping – Raleigh has it all!
Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh?
Sometimes the traffic is not pleasant, especially during rush hour!
How did you pivot in your business during the 2020 pandemic?
I spent countless hours in March and April increasing our online presence on various search engines, social media, and other online platforms. It was painstaking but it finally started to pay off after a month or two.
Additionally, we changed the way customers could order, adding curbside pickup and local delivery. And, we have always had affordable shipping, so we promoted that, too.
In hindsight, what do you wish you had in place before the pandemic hit?
Truthfully, I needed to have all the social media and search engine platform issues resolved before the pandemic hit because trying to get help or customer care when everything shut down was nearly impossible.
Ironically, we are surviving the pandemic as a result of my increasing and strategizing our online presence.
Can’t miss experience/attraction in Raleigh?
It really depends on what interests one. We have many award-winning chefs/restaurants, NC State Athletics as well as the Carolina Hurricanes, museums for anyone’s interests and a variety of entertainment at the PNC Arena and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
Your favorite business in Raleigh that you like to frequent?
CORE Fitness, owned by Jojo Polk, who is an amazing person, and Wegman’s because I am a total foodie!
What are you reading right now?
Beneath the Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps
What excites you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?
Raleigh continues to grow exponentially because it is such a good place to live and many companies are moving here.
New businesses and people bring different excitement to the area. I hope we will see unexpected enterprise and sources of entertainment as a result.
What concerns you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?
I hope that large chains physically located in Raleigh who also maintain a hefty internet presence do not take away too much from the small business owner. I believe balance between the two is needed for our economy to thrive.
Which local Raleigh entrepreneur inspires you to do better?
If you had $1 million dollars to donate to a charity, who would you give it to and why?
Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease. My dad was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease in his 40s. He suffered for over 30 years as a result until he passed away three years ago. I still tear up on a regular basis thinking about how much he suffered for so long.
Additionally, my dad’s brother is now tormented by Lewy Body Dementia, which has many Parkinson’s Disease-like signs and symptoms. Lastly, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in recent years. This disease really needs the attention of our medical world to find a cure!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a business in Raleigh?
Passion is everything. Very few people in this world succeed in anything without the passion for what they believe in.
Use those around you who are resources to help you succeed, especially if they have walked a similar path before you.
What is your favorite task that you perform in your business each day?
On a daily basis, checking my email to see if there is anything new and/or pressing I need to address. I love problem solving and bringing closure to tasks.
During the holidays, I love being on the sales floor and helping customers envision and create their ultimate gifts!
Which activity do you hate most doing in your business each day?
Dealing with UPS claims! Since the pandemic began and shipping volume has increased tremendously, so have damaged packages.
Drink of choice? Which bar, brewery, or coffee shop in Raleigh do you get it at?
It is definitely a toss-up between dark roast coffee and red wine! I am a Starbucks fanatic and favor several restaurants and wine bars with vast selections:
How do you relax and de-stress?
I play tennis on a regular basis, practice yoga, make new creations in the kitchen, spend time in my garden and love a good massage or facial.
What is your “WHY” for doing what you do?
My WHY is multifaceted. I love having a feeling of accomplishment. I always tell my children, “One thing you will never hear someone call me is lazy.” I really take pride in that and I hope I will successfully instill that purpose in them.
I also enjoy helping people discover new and better ways of cooking and baking.
Lastly, I love educating the public about olive oil scandals and how the Italian Mafia makes $16 Billion/year on adulterated olive oil. Most olive oils and balsamic vinegars sold in grocery stores are not legitimate because our government allows for adulterated products to be sold under false labels. It is very problematic.
People think they are being healthy by buying a big jug of olive oil labeled Extra Virgin, when the sad reality is 80-85% of it is not Extra Virgin at all and is attracting cancer causing agents to one’s body. I could go on and on…
Favorite getaway spot in North Carolina?
Blowing Rock, NC
Favorite American city?
Favorite international country?
I favor Germany. My mother’s family is German and so I have a lot of German heritage. I spent time there in high school as an exchange student.
My dream destination is Australia and New Zealand, or perhaps an African safari!
Go say hi to Bethany and tell him This Is Raleigh sent you: