At some point in the past couple of months, I began to wonder why my coffee shop was trying to sell me olive oil at 7:30 in the morning. You know the brand: It’s packaged in a cheerful green squeeze bottle with a comforting label that looks as if it could have been drawn by the same illustrator who did those Mr. Men books from the ’70s. It’s called Graza, and at the shop in question, it’s stocked next to clear jars of dried spices and colorful little tins of preserved fish.
Graza is only about a year old, but if you shop at a particular type of boutique grocer, you may feel like it’s always been here. That is part of the plan. “The small stores were very much a part of our launch strategy and go-to-market strategy,” said Allen Dushi, Graza’s COO. “We wanted to look like an online brand and smell like an online brand and talk like an online brand but build the business through retail.” Dushi founded Graza with Andrew Benin, who, according to his LinkedIn page, was previously head of special projects for the fancy cereal brand Magic Spoon and before that spent three years working for that mattress brand, the one everyone thought they loved a couple of years ago, which Dushi told me had directly informed Graza’s growth. “I think Andrew’s experiences at Casper — they saw the limits of what you can do just online,” he said. “It took most DTC brands a very long time to realize that they truly needed retail, and you’re seeing it happen more and more now.”
I scrolled to the bottom of Graza’s website to see where I could find the oil in Brooklyn. Among the dozens of names — and every Whole Foods location — I saw Good Friend in Gowanus, Poppy’s in Cobble Hill, Dépanneur in Williamsburg, and Big Night in Greenpoint.