Sisters bring olive oil ethic, culture to Hermosa Beach

Milena and Desi Bogdanova show off their wares. Photo by Rafael Ruiz.

The Bulgarian childhood of sisters Milena and Desi Bogdanova played out like scenes from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Everyone knew each other’s every move, the door to the house was open to all, and there was always something cooking in the oven.

Milena recalls neighbors in the tight-knit community keeping an eye on her and Desi and the other children. Inside the family home, friends would come and go as they pleased, and there was always a home cooked meal on the kitchen table.

“Everything was fresh and natural in our life,” Desi said.

Growing up on a Mediterranean diet, olive oil was introduced to them as the foundation of life, and a staple in their home. From the preparation of food to homemade soaps and hair masks, olive oil was the main ingredient.

After moving to California in 1999, they wanted to give others the opportunity to experience a taste of their lifestyle.

“It reinforces the whole idea of how we grew up, what we want to do and what types of relationships we want to have with people,” Milena said.

Oliovera, the sister’s fresh olive oil boutique, opened its doors on upper Pier Avenue five months ago and the Bogdanovas already know many of their customers by name.

“We sell a product that you eat, so it is an intimate relationship with olive oil and our customers,” Milena said.

Custom products

Oliovera specializes in selling certified extra virgin olive oil – widely praised by health experts – which is produced by family olive farms throughout central and northern California.

“We are supporting small farmers and a very fresh and local product,” Milena said. “We want to support what’s American, local and high quality and bring it to our customers.”

While attending California Polytechnic State Institute in central California, Desi educated herself on local olive oil. Certified extra virgin olive oil must be picked and pressed only one time, within 24 hours, at 80 degrees or cooler.

Along with these oils, both plain and flavored, Oliovera carries an 18-year aged balsamic vinegar straight from Italy. The balsamic vineyards, located in the cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, are family owned and run. Packed with antioxidants, balsamic is aged the same as most traditional wines, but the grapes do not ferment, so there is no alcohol content.

“We look for the right balance both in the flavor of the vinegar as well as the thickness and sweetness,” Desi Bogdanova said. 

To the rescue

Not only do their products support local farmers but as a social enterprise, Oliovera donates some of its proceeds to charity. Milena, who received an undergraduate degree from USC and a master’s degree from Harvard University, was struck by her own research into malnutrition among children in this country.

“That was very disturbing to us and really touched our hearts,” she said.

Oliovera has partnered with Feeding America, a leading hunger-relief organization, to provide children with fresh and nutritious meals. For every bottle of olive oil sold, they provide five meals to those in need throughout the U.S.

“To us it is so important to teach people about a healthy lifestyle, to introduce health products in their kitchen and also to look back to those that don’t have enough and don’t have the opportunity to grow up with fresh food – or even enough food,” Milena said. “That is where the idea came from. Together with our customers, we are helping those in need.”

Olive green

Oliovera is also environmentally friendly through the sisters’ recycle program. A discount of $2 is given to customers who refill at the store using the same glass bottle.

The program mirrors their overall mission for a healthy body and environment. The Bogdanova sisters also are looking to partner with local organizations and reach out to the communities’ schools to help teach a healthy lifestyle at a young age.

“It is important to introduce kids to that type of a lifestyle very early on,” Milena said. “And that is the whole reason why we also focus on donating to kids and feeding them as well as educating everyone else.”

From fresh lemon, basil, roasted garlic and Tuscan, the olive oil is flowing inside Oliovera.

“We like to say we are all about simple things – and at Oliovera we are all about people and olive oil,” Milena said.

Oliovera is located at 200 Pier Avenue Suite 206 Hermosa Beach. For more information or to order online see www.oliovera.com or facebook.com/oliovera

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