This is not an olive oil story. This is a story about love, sacrifice, commitment, honest hard work and passion!
Our olive grove lies just a few meters from the sea. As I approach, I smell herbs, wild flowers and fresh cut grass. A gentle sea breeze tickles my face. Filled with excitement, my father, Vasilios, wraps his arms around me and greets me with a kiss. We embrace for a few seconds, then separate and quickly inspect each other to observe any minute changes that may have occurred during all the months we have been apart. He smiles softly and tells me how much he missed me.
His white hair blows in the breeze. His skin is youthful, with hardly any wrinkles, even as his toughened Mediterranean complexion shows the evidence of years of outdoor work. It is early December 2008, and I have just arrived from the United States to help out with our annual olive harvest, which has always been our tradition.
We begin the harvest the day after my arrival, working in the orchard every day from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then crushing our fruit at the olive mill every evening for the next two months. Harvesting olives is physically exhausting, and our father also invests great emotional energy in the process. He has worked outdoors all year and mustered resilience to respond to elements beyond his control. He overcame all the obstacles to reach this crucial time of the year. He agonizes about timing everything just right to ensure the highest quality fruit and the oil that will earn the best price, since this will determine and sustain the quality of our olive grove and lifestyle for another whole year.
Intense as it may be, the harvest has always been a sacred time for us to connect and bond with our father, and also to connect with our land, which has been passed down through four generations. We savor our time together, whether we are picking olives by day or recharging by night, toasting bread slices over a wood fire, then pouring on the freshly made olive oil.
The Early Years 2002-2007
Our family has always been very close. We – my mother Magdalene, sisters Peggy and Olga, brother Dino, and myself (Diamantis) – live in the U.S., while our father remained in Greece. We always cherished the precious, priceless moments we spent with our father, few as they were due to the distance. Our parents both made the ultimate sacrifice in our early adolescence. We moved to the U.S. to give us the opportunity for a better future and education than we would have had in Greece. Our parents wanted to steer us away from the agricultural life and all its difficulties. This left our father in Greece to tend to our land.
As we grew and progressed through school, as both of our parents wanted, we remained connected to our father, our land, our traditions and our humble beginnings in Skala, Laconia. We frequently traveled back to Greece to visit our father, witnessing the love, passion, struggles and challenges of his everyday life as an olive oil producer. We came to understand the sacrifices he made for his children, sacrifices that enabled us to be where we are today.
In 2008, I noticed a change in our father. Observing his body language and facial expressions, I could sense that something concerned him. Our father was normally energetic, but something was weighing him down. As the days went by, it became apparent to me that the work was finally taking a toll on him. All the years of hard work and exposure to the elements, all the frustration and disappointment from unfulfilled higher potential, all the love and passion that he put into his craft, all the years spent away from his children and family had compounded to distress and were unsettling him.
Finally feeling comfortable putting his ego aside one evening, my father expressed exactly what I had suspected. He realized he couldn’t work on the harvest indefinitely. Sooner rather than later, the land would need another steward … or another owner. Maybe, he said, the solution was to sell our land and allow him to be with us in the U.S. That’s where we were all building foundations. That’s where he could distance himself from the deep disappointment he felt at never maximizing the value and potential he knew our olives possessed. At that moment, all I could do was comfort my father and assure him that we would solve this problem together.
For the next two weeks, I was consumed by thoughts of our conversation. Ever the realist, our father understood and accepted that his children were building new lives outside the agricultural industry. He didn’t want our land and olive groves to one day become a burden to us. He didn’t want us to have to repeat his struggles and be away from our family.
But as I was taking all this in, I realized that if we sold our land, my siblings and I would have nothing to come back to in Greece. We would feel like tourists in the place that gave us so many beautiful, powerful childhood memories. We’d surrender ownership of land that represents our traditions and generations of olive farming. Our father always referred to our 5,000 olive trees as his other children. He talked to them, nurtured, fed and comforted them. They were beloved and respected members of our family. We – the four human children – had inherited our father’s affection for the trees and felt conflicted by the idea of disowning the land.
The Idea of Laconiko is here. January 2009
One morning, I got the idea that maybe we could market and sell our oil ourselves. It was an idea we had entertained periodically through the years, but now it assumed much more urgency. As we toyed with the idea, our father became excitedly enthusiastic. The challenges were serious, and the odds were long. Through the years, he watched as neighboring estates tried and failed to succeed on their own. Yet we knew it was different this time.
We called the family back in the U.S., and everyone agreed to take the leap of faith together. With total support for one another and our land, we decided to sell our family’s single-estate extra virgin olive oil in the U.S. By the end of January 2009, my father and I had bottled our very first batch.
Leaving Greece and saying goodbye to our father has never been easy, no matter how many times we all had to experience it. That winter, I left Greece with even more mixed emotions than usual. We had finally made the decision that had eluded us for years. Now what?! We all had doubts and fears, but we were committed to the decision. At stake were all the years of love and care for our trees and all the sacrifices our parents had made to give their children a better tomorrow. We were determined to see a return on our investment, and this outweighed our doubts and fears.
Laconiko is Founded. Spring 2009
By the spring of 2009, we had officially named our newfound company OUR FAMILY’S OLIVE OIL LLC, which would eventually become our Laconiko Extra Virgin Olive Oil brand. By the time our first batch arrived in the U.S., my brother Dino and I had assumed the identity of olive oil producers. We left our other occupations behind and closed all other doors. We accepted responsibility as the next generation of our family’s olive oil producers. We mutually agreed that we would give everything or nothing. There was no other road but this now. We were olive oil producers!
Our sister Olga helped create our Laconiko logo and put together our first marketing brochure. She also helped us find our very first store account. Our sister Peggy and our mother were always there for us, advising and encouraging Dino and me, as we did the legwork to harvest our oil with our father and sell it in the U.S. As we went out to promote our Laconiko oil, we were selling so much more than a new brand of extra virgin olive oil. We were sharing the essence of our family legacy. This oil symbolizes generational aspiration, parental sacrifice, time-honored tradition, hopes, dreams, love, passion, community, connection, hard work, integrity and the soul of a family that believes in its product, and in each other.
A hard year. December 2016
On December 12, 2016, our father passed away unexpectedly during our harvest. It was almost eight years to the day since we had imagined a higher goal and turned words into deeds. He died doing what he loved.
He lived a simple, humble life. Noble and principled, he was deeply generous towards others, especially his family and friends. He laid an amazing foundation for us both personally and professionally, providing us with the opportunity to grow our family property into the business we have today here in the U.S. He lived to see many of our successes and share in our celebrations as our oil won the highest awards and received recognition as a world-class product.
A few of our customers and clients had the opportunity to meet our father during his numerous visits to the States, while others knew of him through pictures and our family story. We are grateful to the extended Laconiko family for your investment in us. We know that Laconiko would not be where it is today if not for our loyal customers and retail stores carrying our products. You were willing to open your doors to us when we were unknown.
Thank you for taking a chance on us. Thank you for allowing us to share our story and our passion with you. Thank you for the love and respect you’ve shown our family through the years. Last but not least, thank you for your heartfelt feedback, which is helping us perfect our craft and our products.
Now at this turning point, we pledge to maintain the values, standards, sincerity, honesty and passion that our father instilled in us. As we continue to grow and perfect our brand, it will always reflect our family’s values and legacy. We look forward to writing the next chapters of this story together with you.
Laconiko has received multiple awards from the Berlin GOOA | Global Olive Oil Awards.
Officially Listed in eliteOliveOils.com | Global Brands 2022