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Bringing the best of California

We Olive and Wine Bar, long ripening behind dusty butcher paper, finally opened its doors in the Village last month, and it turns out it was well worth the wait.

The quaint spot, in the former Bamboo Tea House location at 221 Yale Ave., took more than a year to launch. All that suspense behind the “coming soon” signs paid off with something truly unique.

The store stocks California-grown olive oils sourced from small, family-owned farms, as well as balsamic vinegars.

“And we encourage people to come in and taste our products,” said co-owner Ann Ogden Brown, 63. “We also have salsas, spreads and tapenades and a lot of fun things to cook with.”

We Olive sells boutique California wines from small wineries not readily available elsewhere, by taste, glass or bottle.

They also offer meals and appetizers such as charcuterie plates, cheese boards, hummus dips, flat breads, salads and panini sandwiches.

And the best part of all may be the food and wines can be enjoyed on the sumptuous, newly created back patio.

The new Claremont business came about as a result of a convenient turn of life events, and from Ms. Brown’s long-held dream of one day starting a business with her little sister, Vicky Ogden, 61.

“I was looking for something,” Ms. Ogden Brown said. “My employment [with Claremont’s Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church] had ended, and I was not ready to retire.”

She then found herself in the right place at the right time.

She and her sister were visiting their brother in San Luis Obispo when they happened upon the We Olive location there. “We loved it, and thought, ‘This would be great to have in Claremont,’” Ms. Ogden Brown said.

So, they pitched the idea to Ms. Ogden Brown’s husband Jeff, 65, and a business partnership was born.

“I just felt like it was something that people who lived in Claremont would love, and thought the Village was the perfect place for it,” she said.

The partnership acquired the former tea house location in May 2018. Transforming the space, which had been in business 21 years, turned up a lot of surprises.

“We found some really cool elements,” Ms. Ogden Brown said. Among them were previously covered skylights and original chunky wooden ceiling beams, both now exposed. A drop ceiling is now gone, and a previously closed off portion of the rear of the space has been opened up, with a sliding glass door installed that leads to a hip new patio for al fresco dining. 

“People have been watching it,” Ms. Ogden Brown said of the build-out. “They have been very curious and have been very supportive. We’ve had a lot of people coming in just to look at the building.”

It feels good to be part of the Village continuum, and to spruce up an historic space that had been underutilized in some ways, Ms. Ogden Brown said.

“And to me, this is almost like my hometown, because I’ve lived here longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else,” she said.

The historic building once housed a bank, and was also home to an earlier iteration of the Folk Music Center. “Jeff remembers coming here [to the Folk] as a kid,” Ms. Ogden Brown said.

The Brown family has lived in Claremont for 40 years, and before that, Mr. Brown grew up here. Their son, Jeff Brown Jr., was born and raised here, and is now the band director at El Roble Intermediate School. Ms. Ogden Brown grew up in the South Bay and Orange County, and was on staff at OLA for 10 years before opening We Olive.

Since opening November 23, folks have been steadily been wandering in and discovering the little gem of a store.

“We have some regulars already that come in and enjoy their glass of wine or two during the afternoon,” Ms. Ogden Brown said. “It’s very quiet in our wine bar during that time. They like to come in and hang out and read or look at their computer and just have some quiet time to themselves.”

Ms. Ogden Brown is gratified to be building something in the Village in her adopted home.

“We like the continuity and the historic nature of the Village. I’ve been here 40 years, and of course Jeff’s been here almost his whole life, so he remembers a lot of the changes the Village has gone through. We just want to keep it sweet and friendly and fun.”

The hope is We Olive becomes part of the community, a fun place for friends and family to gather here and make new acquaintances, Ms. Ogden Brown said.

“We want it to be a lively place,” she said. “We’re open every day, so people can either come in and have a quiet glass of wine or have a celebration here or a date night. We just want to be a place where people feel comfortable walking around shopping with a glass of wine in their hands. We’ve got a things that make good gifts for gift giving. We’re all three friendly people and we like to interact with people, so we thought it would be a good fit for us.”

We Olive and Wine Bar, 221 Yale Ave., Claremont, is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Wine Bar is open daily from 11:30 a.m., and last call for food orders is always 45 minutes prior to closing.

Information is at weolive.com/claremont or (909) 445-9777. You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook by searching We Olive Claremont.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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