Branche d’Olivier continues a family and universal tradition of exchange through food, diversity and healing. Branche d’Olivier is a natural, oriental and organic supermarket owned and operated by the Haidar family. Ali Haidar’s father opened the store in 1992 and he’s grown up with the business ever since.
“My father escaped from the Iraq war to come to Canada not knowing that the business would work so well, and so he stayed,” says Ali.
Branche d’Olivier has three Montreal locations: the original is in Verdun, the second in St-Henri and the third in the Plateau, all thanks to popular demand. “It was our clients who asked us to open new locations when they left Verdun for other neighbourhoods,” says Ali.
With a broad selection of well-known natural food brands, as well as dried fruits, nuts, spices, grains, bulk beans and legumes, and oriental foodstuffs, the store is colourful, absorbing and aromatic. “People comment that they like the smell of the store,” says Ali.
The people that come to Branche d’Olivier come for the diversity of items. “Customers often come in looking for one item, like a tea for example, and they’ll end up spending half an hour in the tea section and leave with a bag full of other things.”
“I feel that this approach to buying in bulk and exchanging with people is naturally in me,” says Ali, who loves stocking up on items when he is hosting dinner parties for friends. “I go to the spice section and choose whatever speaks to me and goes with what I already have at home. And I make my own nut mixes — especially ones with mulberries,” Ali says as he gestures to the different sized nut and fruit packets available at the store, a terraced hillside of options for every preference including natural, roasted, raw and organic.
If you’re ever in the store, you can’t miss the spice and dried fruits section; it’s one of Branche d’Olivier’s signature aisles. And luckily, as is the case for all of the products, prices are generally very affordable.
The Haidars keep it that way by maintaining several suppliers for each item and sourcing directly to avoid middlemen. They also do business the old fashioned way by dealing mostly with visiting sales representatives. Between the supplier, customer, merchant, and the three store branches, there is constant communication. “We react quickly to the feedback we receive about new products and special requests,” says Ali.
Ali will even react quickly to any questions you may have about him. Ask him what his favourite vegetable is, and he’ll promptly answer, “Eggplant, because I think it suits me.”