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Olives and Grace Brings Specialty Hand-Made Gifts to Tremont Street

For South End specialty gift shop owner Sofi Madison, the best, hand-made things come in small packages.

At Olives and Grace, it's not just about the taste. It's not just about where it's from. It's not just about the message.

It's about all of the above.

Sofi Madison, who opened the speciality gift store at 669 Tremont Street in the South End a few weeks ago, curates the most unique, hand-made and feel-good products from emerging artists, artisans and small batch food makers from near and far. Take a peak into her bright, airy retail space and you'll see hand-made thank you notes from Jamaica Plain, grass-fed hand-crafted beef jerkey from New York, or Skillet Bacon Spread from Seattle. 

Yes, bacon spread. 

"They really pushed the limits with their product," said Madison, explaining the company's story from starting as a spread for food trucks then expanding into a retail line. 

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And we can't forget products like Two Degrees bars, which for every bar sold they donate a food pack to starving children, "with what it does and the quality of ingredients in it, it needs someone there to represent it," said Madison, or Ajiri tea, which supports a program that employs women in Kenya to make unique hand-made boxes out of banana leaves. Oh, and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards sending an orphan to school.

That combination of exceptional product and touching story is what makes Olives and Grace truly special, Madison said. 

"The people who I buy from are people that I am like, 'I want to be your friend,'" she said. "I love what you make, and to have the confidence to just go for it and create something wonderful - that is what gave me the confidence to open the store, because I love it."

Trial and Error
Madison, a Weston, MA native, said the idea for the specialty gift store sort of cropped up on its own, as she explored different cities and occupations that just didn't seem to fit.  

"I was just kind of building from different experiences; event planning in San Fransiciso, some sales that I wasn’t passionate about," she said, noting she also lived in Santa Monica and Boulder before ending up back in Boston. "I didn’t have any experience in retail aside from the particular type of customer that I am. I just wanted to make a store that appealed to me."

But that type of customer has proven successful in stocking the shelves with a variety of types of truly unique products, all made by small producers throughout the country. 

"We back a lot of small business in Massachusetts, but also locals in other cities," she said. "I want to find out who is making the granola in Seattle, and learn about differet small towns and cities and states through the homemade gifts that are made there," she said.  

A Neighborhood Store
Madison said she's always on the lookout for new products, whether she's scouting blogs or farmer's markets, or just listening to the locals who drop by her store.

"An idea that appeals to me a lot is to when a neighbor will come in and say, 'I was just in Vermont, I really liked this family-owned product - here’s the name of it,'" she said. "I love the idea that the neighbors can have a real impact on a store in their community and start seeing their favorite products in here. I think that would be a mission accomplished."

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