Have Yourself a Murray Little Christmas…..
Stephanie Murray, the longest term vomFASS US salesperson, has contributed greatly to the growth of the franchise and has become a beloved ambassador of the products she loves. Beginning her tenure at the Madison flagship store, she has now moved on to the bustling State Street shop. As she was decking the halls we had a chance to talk to her.
Toni Jakovec: Hi Stephanie. Tell us, when did you start your career with vomFASS?
Stephanie Murray: I think it was about 7 years ago, in the spring.
TJ: I know you started at the flagship store in Shorewood (Madison, WI). Do you know how many US franchises were open at that point?
SM: There were definitely less than five. Let’s see. There was Madison, of course. St. Louis and New Orleans were already open. Wow, maybe it was only three.
TJ: You were there before vomFASS was even on anyone’s radar. How did you find out so early about vomFASS?
SM: My daughter-in-law told me there was a store that I would just love. And she was right. I became a customer first. I kept going back to the store, refilling bottles. I was attracted by the wellness oils at first and gradually discovered the oils and vinegars. Once I was convinced of the quality at vomFASS, and applied for a position. I remember the day. I walked into the shop with my bottles to be refilled, was enveloped by the delightful background music and all of the casks, and was approached by the salesperson. I looked at him and said, “I like it here. Can I have a job?”
TJ: That’s funny.
SM: I remember being trained and was taken around to try the olive oils and being blown away. To that point, I had thought olive oil was olive oil. I tasted about 8 or 10 of the oils and was astonished to find that each oil had a distinctive taste. Over the years of training people I have also discovered that each person has their own individual palate and experiences different tastes as well. It was an enlightening experience for me with just the olive oils alone. That opened the doors to all of the other flavor opportunities and I began learning from everyone and incorporating what I learned into teaching our customers. Then of course I began learning from the customers as well.
TJ: Do you remember how long the Madison flagship store had been open before you started there and how long did you work there?
SM: I think it was open about 3 years and then I stayed there for 5+ years before transferring to the Madison State Street store in mid-2015.
TJ: Have your customers followed you?
SM: I don’t think “follow” is the right word. Most of my original customers also shop downtown Madison, so, of course, I see them then. Also, over time many customers have moved downtown so State Street is a more convenient location. No matter what the reason, it’s always exciting to see a familiar face and surprise them.
TJ: We caught you “decking the halls” today. Is that something you like to do….decorate the store for holidays?
SM: I love it.
TJ: I understand you bring in various items and antiques from your home to spice up the decorations and give them a more personal touch. What is a typical decorating idea you might use?
SM: I try to bring things from home that might showcase the products. One year I brought in an antique sled, picnic basket and plaid blanket. I stood the sled up, draped the blanket around the sled and basket. On the top of the basket I displayed a bottle of cognac and cognac glasses. It was very festive.
TJ: Over the years, what do you think has fundamentally changed and/or improved at vomFASS?
SM: Although not exactly a change, what has been the most gratifying is the expansion of the shops throughout the US. Anytime a customer expressed an interest in the concept, I was always eager to explore the idea with them and provide any brochures or information available. The products are so good, I think the best change has been the growth of the company.
TJ: Do you have any particularly humorous memories of your years with vomFASS?
SM: I remember one lady customer who came in to refill her bottle of Aceto Balsamico Maletti. She said, “My hands are shaking….I need my fix.” I would hate to call our products addicting, but once people taste them, especially the Maletti, they become “must haves.”
TJ: You’re kind of a vomFASS pied piper. Have you ever recruited someone to work for vomFASS?
SM: If you remember, I recruited you.
TJ: Yes, you did. And it worked out beautifully for both of us. I loved the years we worked together at the Shorewood shop. Okay, here comes the toughest question: what are your personal favorite products?
SM: That’s a really cruel question. As you know, I love them all. But, I will use the same answer I use when our customer’s ask. I eat a salad every day, and obviously, I can try anything I want. However, I do have my favorites. Of the vinegars I love Calamansi, Ginger Grape & Lemon, Aceto Platinum, Vinagre Viejo and Aceto Maletti. My go-to oils are Rosemary with bread, and I love the Ginger Sesame Oil with Grape, Ginger & Lemon. And I love the Pumpkin Oil and Pomegranate Vinegar, Hazelnut Oil and Pear Vinegar, (laughing) and it just goes on and on!
TJ: Here’s another tough question – what’s your favorite part of the job?
SM: Meeting people from all over and then introducing them to these fabulous products. As soon as people start tasting these products, they are blown away immediately. I love bringing people that excitement and experience. Watching the surprised look on their faces as they delight in the unexpected flavors absolutely makes my day. I love the fact that I can excite and surprise every level of cooks…..from humble home cooks to the most sophisticated chef. And it is gratifying to bring these high quality products to my customers. In fact, I’m fairly certain I would not be as successful if I didn’t believe so strongly in the quality and artisanship of vomFASS products.
TJ: Your expertise has made you one of the top trainers for new franchisees. Do you have a special training method?
SM: I do. I have a developed a mnemonic device to help newbies get to know and remember the array of vomFASS products and how to pair them.
TJ: Well, that sounds intriguing. Can you give us an example?
SM: Of course. One of the first pairings I offer is the “P&P,” which stands for Pumpkin seed oil and Pomegranate vinegar. That is an especially good combination for a salad with spinach, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and chèvre. I also recommend the “G & G” which stands for the Ginger Grape and Lemon vinegar with the Ginger Sesame oil. I also explain the “H & H” which is the Hazelnut oil and Honey vinegar. I include one of my personal favorites, the “R & R” which stands for Raspberry vinegar and Rosemary oil. This is a very helpful device as new owners and staff overcome their nervousness with customers. With these few memory triggers everyone is well equipped to guide a customer through the many possible combinations and flavors vomFASS has to offer. This little trick was so easy to remember it turned out to be a great way to give new owners and staff member’s confidence about the product line.
TJ: It’s a very clever idea. Have you also adapted it to the spirits?
SM: I have. A favorite is the “A & A.” That’s a great pairing of the Apricot Liqueur with the Armagnac. Once they have offered the “A & A” to a customer, it leads very easily on to the Sour Cherry liqueur and all of the others. Again, by starting out with a memorized pairing, the new owners have the confidence to explore and interact with customers.
TJ: Again, I think it’s a fabulous approach to teaching people about the product line. And, the particular pairings you chose are especially tasty. So it’s not just a gimmick to remember, but it also showcases some of the best tasting pairings which is an incredible selling advantage. Now, I know you have a million recipes, but how about sharing that spinach salad with us?
Toni Jakovec December 11, 2016
- Bunch of Baby Spinach
- ½ C. Dried Cranberries
- ½ C. Toasted Pecans
- ½ C. Crumbled Chèvre
- 1-2 T. Pumpkin Seed Oil
- 1-2 T. vomFASS Pomegranate BalsamVinegar
- vomFASS Salt & Pepper to taste
- Combine spinach, cranberries, pecans and chèvre; toss gently.
- In a cruet or small bowl, mix Pumpkin Seed Oil, Pomegranate Vinegar and salt & pepper. Whisk or shake to combine.
- Pour dressing over salad, toss and serve.
Recipe may be doubled or tripled