Alumnus Brings Family Heritage to America with Spartan Oil

by Anne Reynolds

Alumnus Brings Family Heritage to America with Spartan Oil
Examining an ancient olive tree in Sparta.

The striking valleys and rugged hills of Greece are a world away from the suburban bustle of Fairfax, Virginia. But for one college alumnus, family ties have nurtured his desire to bring the two together.

Pericles Konstas, BA Philosophy and Religious Studies 2000, is celebrating the rich heritage of his family ancestry by bringing one of Greece’s prized exports directly to the northern Virginia area, in the form of Spartan Oil.

Greece is the third largest producer of olive oil in the world (after Spain and Italy) and the world’s top producer of extra virgin olive oil, or oil that is cold-pressed from the first pressing of olives. Naturally low in acidity, it is considered to be the finest and most fruity of olive oil designations.

The Konstas family has been farming in the region around Sparta since the 1700s. Though he grew up in the northern Virginia area, Pericles Konstas has cherished and maintained close ties with his family in Greece, and fondly recalls the time he spent there. “During summers, I’d tag along with my grandfather in a mustard yellow Datsun pick-up truck as he tended to his garden, crops, and olive trees,” he recalls. “Over the years, I'd learn so much more about the trees, the process, and the importance of paying attention to the details. I tried to soak in as much as I could from my grandfather and the other villagers.”

Those experiences nurtured his dream of playing a role in the family business. But this dream did not materialize immediately. After graduating from Mason, Konstas became a successful businessman, working to become the CEO of a management consulting and foreign languages services company. He continued to learn as much as he could about the olive oil business, and when he resolved to go into business on his own, and knew that he had a unique opportunity.

Still, translating the dream into reality presented some challenges. Konstas recognized that he would need help with the cross-cultural component of setting up the business. Fortunately, he was able to rely on strong family ties, including his mother, who had returned to the village where she had grown up.

In March, 2014, he traveled to Greece for the purpose of “doing his homework”: gathering information about supply chains, permits, licenses, import and export fees, and putting together a business team to bring Spartan Oil to the United States. Now, after years of learning the business of olive oil, and backed by nine generations of family working to produce it, Konstas is seeing the reward for his labors.

Spartan Oil may be purchased online, and Konstas is working to establish partnerships with retail outlets throughout northern Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region. His hope is to develop the business in a way that will allow him to play a role in its growth and to enjoy the process.

“My mission is two-fold,” he explains. “I want to bring high-quality olive oil to a broader market, while honoring and contributing back to my heritage, helping the farmers and craftsmen who have produced the oil itself.”