Every Saturday, 68-year-old Evie Semertzides stands behind her table anxiously waiting to sell her home-grown olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette at the Oxford Farmers Market.
The warm smell of pressed olives wafts throughout the aisle of her booth. She greets customers with a slight smile on her face and asks about their day. She eagerly waits for new customers to taste her olive oil on neatly cut focaccia bread that she has brought from home.
Semertzides was born and raised in Crete, Greece, where her family owns a home and a variety of olive trees in an orchard.
She started her business, called Kofinas, eight years ago to maintain her strong Cretan culture and share her olive oil with others.
Semertzides met her husband, John, at college in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she was studying physics and he was studying medicine. After graduation, they came to the United States, where John did his medical training in Cincinnati and was later hired.
“[Our business] is called Kofinas because it is the name of the mountain that is close to where we grow our olive trees,” Semertzides said.
When traveling from Crete to Cincinnati, Semertzides would carry large tins of olive oil through customs to enjoy her family’s delicacy. Through the years, Semertzides’ friends in Cincinnati would ask her to bring them bottles of her olive oil.
It was then that Semertzides decided to import her olive oil in larger quantities and begin her business.
“We’re retired, [so this is a] second business to do,” she said. “We had our own olive oil. We have excellent quality trees.”
The olive trees that she grows are located in Crete along with the staff that produces the actual olive oil. The oil is then shipped to Cincinnati for Sermerzides to sell. Kofinas employs only eight people that are not a part of the Sermerzides family to aid in the process of making the oil.
Through Kofinas, Semertzides is able to go home to Crete once a year in the winter for a few months to spend time with her mom and press the olive oil.
Semertzides spends those few months in Crete making olive oil with her family to then come back to Cincinnati to sell it.
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Selmertzides began selling in Oxford because she was told by a friend that the Oxford Farmers Market has a lot of foot traffic.
Junior Sophie Thompson visits the Oxford Farmers Market frequently and believes that the market is about high quality products grown or made by the local community.
“Evie Semertzides really embodies what the market stands for because she creates something unique for the people of Oxford to enjoy,” Thompson said. “Being a part of the local environment really is key because vendors and customers can then build connections and celebrate the efforts that go into carefully cultivated products that are good for the community.”
She also sells Kofinas at the Findlay Market in downtown Cincinnati.
Kofinas offers infused olive oils, balsamic vinegars, Cretan mountain thyme honey, artisanal sea salts and spice mixes. Semertzides’ favorite olive oil is her chipotle infused flavor. You can find all Semertzides’ product on Kofinas’ website.
To stay environmentally sustainable, Kofinas gives credit to customers for bringing empty bottles. Customers receive $1 off their next purchase if they bring back an empty bottle.
“I [sell my olive oil at the Oxford Farmers Market] because I love olive oil,” Semertzides said about her business. “It’s an excellent product that everybody likes.”