When David Cohen received word that the building that’s housed Genesis Kitchen since 2012 was reclaiming the space, it could have spelled disaster for his artisan olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop.
But that attitude doesn’t align with Cohen’s perspective.
“I looked at it as the universe saying, ‘get after it,’” Cohen said.
And get after it he did.
More than six years ago, Genesis Kitchen opened its doors at 140 Lupfer Ave. in Whitefish. The cozy store was lined with almost 50 jars of specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Italy, Chile and beyond.
But space was at a premium as Cohen and his wife, co-owner Sheri Lynn, expanded their inventory of extra virgin oils, infused oils, like wild mushroom and sage or organic garlic, and a delicious line of flavored balsamics, like wild blueberry and dark chocolate.
To maintain a presence in Whitefish, the couple decided to move into an outpost at Stumptown Marketplace downtown, which opened Feb. 11, and to expand their offerings they are in the process of moving into a larger space on Nucleus Avenue in Columbia Falls.
“The new space is almost twice as big so we anticipate a much more relaxed tasting experience,” Cohen said, adding that they were outgrowing the old space, which was becoming crowded.
It also includes warehouse space, enabling Genesis to expand its inventory of foods.
“We will be using our leased warehouse space to be able to import more foods with more logistical support,” Cohen said. “We have already partnered with a fantastic importer that specializes in Peruvian and Spanish ingredients that meet our exacting standards — no chemicals, preservatives, or additives, and the products must be fairly traded.”
Cohen’s and Lynn’s emphasis on clean eating is the driving principle behind Genesis, and it’s evident in the quality of their products.
Each jar details where the specific olive grove was located and when the oil was hand pressed. This meticulous emphasis resembles a winery, where vintners proudly emphasize the origin of each batch.
Like a winery, Genesis Kitchen hosts tastings for its customers.
Taste buds are flavor receptors, as Cohen explained, and different olives can complement with a unique zest. There are also the various health benefits, which were the origin behind Genesis Kitchen.
Cohen and Lynn are also the co-owners of Genesis Transformation, an organization founded five years ago in Whitefish and focused on health, wellbeing and fitness. They produce cookbooks and other resources to help steer a healthy lifestyle. More and more, olive oil emerged as a common ingredient in thriving diets. The substance is rich in monounsaturated fat, called “good fat,” and is also a natural anti-inflammatory. However these powerful benefits can be lost in mass-production for low-cost grocery store products, which commonly originate from a blend of low quality vegetables at random groves.
Genesis Kitchen imports its oils from Veronica Foods Company, an Oakland-based producer that has harvested specialty groves around the world since 1924.
The olives are fresh and picked when they’re ripe, then carefully pressed for up to six hours. The result is something uniquely rich and fresh, yet beckoning back to ancient Greece.
“This is what your olive oil is supposed to taste like. It’s tasted like this since the dawn of man, literally. This is one of the oldest foods and one of the oldest medicines,” Cohen said.
The health benefits of olive oil have been one of the biggest drivers for the ongoing success of Genesis.
“We have several doctors in the valley that send people to us for high-polyphenol olive oil, which has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Two doctors even write prescriptions that people bring in. We were already aware of the myriad of health benefits that our wares provide but were not prepared for the level of support from the medical community. It is so cool.”
In an effort to be environmentally mindful, Cohen and Lynn offer refill discounts if customers return their glass bottles to reuse and reduce waste.
Meanwhile, Genesis is partnering with more and more restaurants in the Flathead Valley, including Abruzzo Italian Kitchen in Whitefish.
“Hats off to them, because they are offering their customers the best olive oil and balsamic available, and they definitely pay more for it,” Cohen said.
Although still a nascent idea, Cohen hopes to use the new space’s parking lot, which serves as a major boon to customers accustomed to the cramped on-street parking at the Lupfer location, to host events, tastings and food trucks during the summer months.
“That’s still in the pipe-dream category, but it would be so cool to host outdoor events,” he said. “Either way, we are so excited to be a part of downtown Columbia Falls, which is literally shifting before our eyes.”
While the new location in Whitefish is open for business, Cohen estimated it would likely be late February or early March by the time the Columbia Falls location on the north end of Lupfer can open.
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