A six-year-old company owned by Lois Hensel, Loidé Oils & Vinegars, is proposing an expansion to downtown Brainerd and an addition of high-end appliances with a demonstration area for cooking classes.
Loidé Oils & Vinegars, which originated in Nisswa, has already expanded to Walker, Bemidji and Monticello and is one of three finalists for the Destination Downtown Business Challenge.
Loidé (Italian for Lois) Oils and Vinegars includes a tasting bar and gifts and offers classes.
Hensel said she believes there is a market here for high-end appliances and a demonstration area to keep those dollars here that are now leaving the community, particularly in an area with high-end lake properties. She envisions expanding on cooking classes and incorporating her oils and vinegars, and working with downtown eateries.
“I think it is going to definitely draw additional customers to downtown,” Hensel said of expanding to Brainerd.
She pointed to national trends for healthy eating that have enhanced the retail market for her oils and vinegars. And Hensel has online sales for her product as well. She supplies area resorts and restaurants with her products, including Grand View Lodge in Nisswa and Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake, along with Ganley’s, Main Street Ale, Walker Coffee Shop, Rafferty’s of Crosslake and Adirondack.
Hensel said her early days were slow but once she got people to try her product, it sold itself. She opened her store in Nisswa in 2013 and grew from there, adding the other locations one by one in following years. Hensel said she is always looking at ways to grow and improve.
In addition to the oils and vinegars, she offers local honey, non-GMO soups, preserves, barbecue sauces and jellies.
Hensel, a married mother of two adult boys with four grandchildren, said she has a need to continue to evolve and the next evolution of her business will be the addition of the luxury appliances, which she added in her business plan will work well with the products she already offers. The appliances would include but not be limited to hoods, ranges, cooktops, built-in ovens, microwaves, steamers, pizza ovens, warming drawers, washing machines, dryers, and outdoor grills with related appliances.
An owner with a strong attention to detail for her retail services and product line, Hensel is the youngest of 10 children. She said she learned the value of a strong work ethic, accountability and honesty from her parents. With several stores in the state, she’s used to putting in the hours to make her growing business a success. Hensel said the trends toward healthy eating have enhanced the retail market for the quality oils and balsamic vinegar.
“When people taste it, they can taste the difference,” she said. Hensel also sells online to customers and noted her stores draw from seasonal and year-round residents.
Hensel envisions a monthly appliance and win expo, cooking demonstrations, techniques and food preparation.
“The complete concept for Loidé Oils & Vinegars is the offering of a way to consume clean, healthy foods,” Hensel wrote in her business plan. “... This expansion into downtown Brainerd will allow an opportunity to offer clients a ‘hands-on’ experience and the opportunity to physically work with some of the appliances.”