Bringing experience steeped in world travel, a background in coffee sourcing and local roots, Fusano Olive Company co-owners Jeremy Sizemore and Scott Morrell took over a company stuffed with heritage like the garlic and jalapeño olives they market locally around San Luis Obispo County.
In 1909, Cristo Fusano arrived at Ellis Island from the olive tree-adorned landscape of Bari, Italy, ready to share his knowledge and skill to grow and produce superior olives.
More than a century later, the Fusano legacy has new ownership, and Sizemore and Morrell share the daunting task of carrying on the rich heritage into the 21st century.
Sizemore and Morrell purchased the company a year ago, and rebranding with a new logo and fresh website to match, they work to put “the same loving care into continuing the tradition.”
Translating a wealth of experience in sourcing coffee as a world traveler as well as co-owner of Spearhead Coffee, Sizemore brought crossover values to the olive business — growing up and doing business in Paso Robles wine country did not hurt either.
“We adopted a similar strategy with Fusano as we did with Spearhead Coffee,” Sizemore said. “We try to do the most direct trade with local farmers as possible.”
Sizemore spent 15 years traveling the world, including Egypt and Thailand, where he saw first hand the sources of many of the products Americans push a button to receive. His experience adds to the company’s values of getting to know the farmers and families that produce the crops that he puts to market, and ensuring a fair shake between all parties.
“That is an emphasis in all of our businesses,” Sizemore said. “I want it to be a win-win-win. I want it to be a win for the customers, a win for the farmers and, of course, a win for the business. It is more than just a living, it is about a win-win for our local and global community.”
Even the best of intentions can be met with resistance when it comes to finding room on the shelves of local proprietors, and the company’s “old-school” approach to marketing and PR has been welcomed in the community — coming in with a bottle of cold-press, extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil doesn’t hurt the duo’s likability.
After nearly two decades of bonding over weekly coffee meetings, Sizemore and Morrell found a way to take their friendship to the next level.
“Jeremy and I are lifelong friends. We have been meeting together for 18 years weekly as friends and we always entertained getting into business together,” Morrell said. “When Jeremy approached me and told me about the brand and that it needs a home to carry on, I got excited about it.”
Sizemore’s culinary expertise joined Morrell’s marketing skills, and the rebranding and marketing of Fusano took on new life and landed on shelves of local shops and a new website.
“It has been a good marriage of his culinary background and my marketing talent,” Morrell said.
Jumping into the market, the new Fusano is making a name for itself on the shelves of local stores in SLO County, and sharing in the success is key to being a part of this community.
“Our friends and family want to buy our olives, and we tell them the
Fusano Olive Company co-owners Jeremy Sizemore and Scott Morrell
best thing you can do to support us is to support our stores,” Morrell said. “We are all about supporting those local businesses.”
Challenging the “bigger is better” industrial motivations, Fusano’s owners keep it simple on purpose.
“I have a passion for small artisan products,” Sizemore said. “I love craft beer, specialty coffee, olives, small boutique wineries and the love, care and detail in every part of the process.”
The small farms where the olives are grown have a particular charm that appeals to Fusano, keeping in the spirit of the heritage of the company’s strong brand. According to Sizemore, one farm does not receive email, and instead he is forced to communicate by fax machine — a throwback to a century gone by.
When it came to rebranding, Morrell and Sizemore looked to make a bridge between the rich history of the company and the present and future market.
“We really wanted a look that would be old-world 1900s,” Morrell said, “and that it could have been around that long. We wanted it to lend itself to being born in 1900s but also relevant today.”
For Fusano, nostalgia can be a great characteristic, but it is the long roots and relationship with the earth that attract Sizemore and Morrell to their growers.
“The olive groves we source are big, ginormous, gnarly olive trees,” Sizemore said. “You can see they are old growth, and they are a part of the land.”
The smell of fertile soil and rolling hills can almost be recognized as Sizemore spoke about the source of the Fusano brand.
“Olives have been with us through history,” Sizemore said. “I just love the raw, organic, back to the earth elements. It is really good stuff.”
Heading to market where relationships are the key to their success, the Fusano owners keep that respect in balance to their sources as well.
“We care about the products, and it is made with as much care and precision as possible,” Sizemore said. “We want to make sure the farmers growing our product are also being treated fairly.”
With a year under their belt, and a century of heritage to protect, Sizemore and Morrell prioritize both a local and global responsibility in package, product and delivery.
“People come to trust Fusano for quality and great taste,” Sizemore said. “We really care about the quality and the great taste. We are also bringing the social responsibility. You can trust the product, that it is not bloated with chemicals, but you can also trust that people are being treated fairly and the land is respected.”
Sizemore and Morrell form a dynamic package, and they look to expand the Fusano territory up and down the California coast.
“Up to this point it has been a lot of relationship building and marketing with local stores,” Morrell said. “Our goal is to support retail more than selling it ourselves. Our marketing has been almost solely building relationships with those local stores. Then we want to expand along the coast and inland.”
The Fusano product line includes five olive types — whole Italian, garlic stuffed, jalapeño stuffed, Kalamata and habanero stuffed — and cold pressed, extra virgin, estate olive oil from California Manzanillo olives. They are available online at FusanoOlives.com, or at local shops also listed on the website.