When Tristan de Luna came to Pensacola in the 16th century, he lugged along several olive trees. Those poor seafaring shrubs were the first to be planted in American soil. They have vanished in the mists of time—and the gale force winds of countless hurricanes. But Rishy Studer is conjuring their ghosts.
The Bodacious Olive, which Studer opened this summer, is one of the newest additions to downtown Pensacola. The shop sells a tantalizing variety of artisanal oils and vinegars, as well as freshly baked bread, homemade pastas, and wine.
The venture is one more feather in the cap of a couple who need no introduction. Rishy and her husband, Quint, have supported too many causes to list.
Recently, the couple donated $1 million to create a scholarship fund at the University of West Florida. They also contributed more than $2 million to the construction of the Community Maritime Park and are co-owners of the Blue Wahoos franchise.
The Olive is part of their campaign to kick-start business development downtown.
“We saw a need after the storm, when things were so devastated,” Rishy Studer said. “I guess it was just a way of branching out—trying to do our share.”
One day, Studer overheard some tourists ask a shop proprietor, “Where’s the shopping downtown?” The proprietor’s response made her realize that something was missing.
“We thought things really needed a jumpstart,” she said.
So, they purchased the vacant building at Palafox and Government.
“Once we bought the building, we had to come up with an idea of what to do with it,” she said.
The couple was vacationing in North Carolina when the lights came on. It was there that they stumbled upon an olive oil shop.
“We had so much fun,” she said. “Over an hour we spent, just trying things. It was an experience, and I wanted to make this an experience, too.”
In addition to the Olive, the Studers own the two adjacent spaces and the old Penko’s building across Palafox. Studer said they plan to put a coffee shop in the space next to The Olive. The third space will be home to Carmen’s Lunch Counter, the winner of the Pensacola Business Challenge.
The Challenge, which was the Studers’ brainchild, was meant to encourage entrepreneurs to open their doors downtown. Carmen’s will not have to pay rent for the first year, and will pay subsidized rent for several years thereafter.
The Penko’s building is being renovated now, but when complete, Studer said it should house five or six retail businesses and accommodate three loft apartments or condominiums on the upper floor.
Studer said she hopes their entrepreneurship will pay dividends for Pensacola. She envisions a walking district that extends all the way to the Plaza de Luna.
She even has a name for the soon-to-be-lively region south of Government Street. (She credits Brian Spencer with the idea). The name? SoGo.