(Olive) Oil Baron
Dimitri Komninos, B.S. ’11
“Keep Calm and Press Olives,” says a plaque by the cheerful, olive-colored front door to DEVOO, 1 W. Biddle St., across from the Varsity at UB. The 6-month-old Greek deli and specialty market is the brick-and-mortar retail arm of Dimitri Olive Farms, which will import 15 tons of golden, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil this year directly from family farms near Sparta, Greece. Dimitri Komninos, B.S. ’11, owns the company—and now the market—along with his stepfather (who also happens to be named Dimitri). As a small-business owner, Greek-born Komninos does a little bit of everything to advance the company, meaning his days are anything but calm.
7ish a.m.: Komninos is up, thanks to his “alarm,” an 8-year-old shih tzu named Piper. “I’ll wake up in the morning and eat a spinach pie straight out of the fridge, cold,” he says. If it’s a weekend, the wakeup call comes before dawn, so Komninos can make it to the farmers markets in time to set up before the crowds move in.
8 a.m.: He heads to the warehouse in Greektown to do inventory and pick up oil for wholesale deliveries in Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia and to prep online orders for shipment. He delivers to clients weekly; locally, they include top-ranked restaurants such as Gertrude’s, The Food Market, Birroteca and The Prime Rib—and even the Orioles’ team chef.
10 a.m.: Together with his stepfather and another employee, Komninos preps DEVOO (Dimitri Extra Virgin Olive Oil) to open at 11. “I do a lot for my business, but without my family’s help on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he says. He might head out again, stopping at the bank, making a delivery, meeting with his accountant or connecting with a new wholesale client. “You can find me peeling potatoes in here or at the bank counting money; it depends on what day of the week and what time of day it is,” he adds.
11:50 a.m.: Back at DEVOO, Komninos chats with a customer turning a bottle of roasted chili pepper-infused oil over in her hands. “Do you like spicy stuff?” he asks. “I can let you taste it.”
12:35 p.m.: Handwriting lunch orders as they fly at him, Komninos takes payments via iPad. He also wipes down the counter, makes sandwiches and fills out the deli display case, but he remains a businessman to the core: “If you’re coming to get a sandwich, I’d like you to buy two sandwiches with a spinach pie on the side,” he says.
1:20 p.m.: He rings up an order of lentils, chickpeas, rustic bread, oregano, cheese, cookies, meats and olive oil for a customer who had called asking for directions to DEVOO after it was mentioned in The Baltimore Sun.
3 p.m.: Lunch rush over, Komninos rolls up his sleeves for catering orders and deliveries. As he preps, he snaps photos on his phone for DEVOO’s active social media accounts.
5:30 p.m.: Sometimes, customers stop in after work to refill their olive oil bottles (discounted from the first-time purchase price) and pick up dinner. Along with a couple of employees, Komninos runs the shop until it closes at 7 p.m. He wraps food and puts it away, pays the bills and makes sure the register is reconciled before heading out.
9 p.m.: Komninos arrives home near Patterson Park, bringing food with him from DEVOO or from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood (whose owner was the best man in Komninos’ 2014 wedding). “I like cooking,” Komninos says, “but now with the store, I’m tired. I don’t feel like cooking.”