OUR STORY CONTINUED
Our family has always been very close. We – my mother Magdalene, sisters Peggy and Olga, brother Dino, and myself (Diamantis) – live in the U.S., while our father remained in Greece. We always cherished the precious and priceless moments we spent with our father, few as they were due to the distance. Our parents both made the ultimate sacrifice in our early adolescence. We moved to the U.S. to give us a better opportunity for a better future and education than we would have had in Greece. Our parents wanted to steer us away from the agricultural life and all its difficulties and challenges. This left our father in Greece to tend to our land. As we grew and progressed through school, as both of our parents wanted, we remained connected to our father, our land, our traditions and our humble beginnings in Skala, Lakonia. We frequently traveled back to Greece to visit our father, during which time we bore witness to the love, passion, struggles and challenges of his everyday life as an olive oil producer. We came to understand the sacrifices he made for his children that enabled us to be where we are today.
This particular year, I noticed a change in our father. Observing his body language and facial expressions, I could sense that something was concerning him. Our father was normally energetic, but something was weighing him down. As the days went by, it became apparent to me that the work was finally taking a toll on him. All the years of hard work, exposed to the elements, all the frustration and disappointment from unfulfilled higher potential, all the love and passion that he put into his craft, all the years spent away from his children and family had compounded to distress and were unsettling him. Finally feeling comfortable and putting his ego aside, one evening my father expressed exactly what I had suspected. He realized he couldn’t work the harvest indefinitely. Sooner rather than later, the land would need another steward … or another owner. Maybe, he said, the solution is to sell our land and allow him to be with us in the U.S. That’s where we were all building foundations. That’s where he could distance himself from the deep disappointment he felt at never maximizing the value and potential he knew our olives possessed. At that moment, all I could do is comfort my father and assure him that we would solve this together.
For the next two weeks, I was consumed by thoughts of our conversation. Ever the realist, our father understood and accepted that his children were building new lives outside of the agricultural industry. He didn’t want our land and olive groves to one day be a burden on us. He didn’t want us to have to repeat the struggles and to be away from our family. As I was taking all this in, I realized that if we sold our land, my siblings and I would have nothing to come back to in Greece. We would feel like tourists in the place that gave us so many beautiful and powerful childhood memories. We’d surrender ownership of land that represents our traditions and generations of olive farming. Our father always referred to our 5,000 olive trees as his other children. He talked to them, nurtured, fed and comforted them. They were beloved and respected members of our family. We – the four human children – had inherited our father’s affection for the trees and felt conflicted by the idea of disowning the land.
One morning, I got the idea that we could market and sell our oil ourselves. It was an idea we had entertained periodically through the years, but now it assumed much more urgency. As we toyed with the idea, our father became excitedly enthusiastic. The challenges were serious and the odds were long. Through the years, he watched as neighboring estates tried and failed to succeed on their own. We knew it was different this time. We called the family back in the U.S. and everyone agreed to take the leap of faith together. With total support for one another and our land, we decided to sell our family’s single-estate extra-virgin olive oil in the U.S. By the end of January 2009, my father and I had bottled our very first batch.
Leaving Greece and saying goodbye to our father has never been easy, no matter how many times we all had to experience it. That winter, I left Greece with a lot of mixed emotions. We had finally made the decision that eluded us for years. Now what?! We all had doubts and fears, but we were committed to the decision. At stake were all the years of love and care for our trees and all the sacrifices our parents had made to give their children a better tomorrow. We were determined to see a return on our investment and this outweighed our fears and doubts.
By the spring of 2009, we had officially named our newfound company OUR FAMILY’S OLIVE OIL LLC, which would eventually become our Laconiko Extra-Virgin Olive Oil brand. By the time our first batch arrived in the U.S., my brother Dino and I had assumed the identity of olive oil producers. We left our other occupations and closed all other doors. We accepted responsibility that we would be the next generation of our family’s olive oil producers. We mutually agreed that we would give everything or nothing! There was no other road but this now. We are olive oil producers now!
Our sister, Olga, helped create our Laconiko logo and put together our first marketing brochure. She also helped us find our very first store account. Our sister, Peggy, and our mom were always there for us, advising and encouraging Dino and myself, as we did the legwork to harvest our oil with our father and sell it in the U.S. As we went out promoting our Laconiko oil, we were selling so much more than a new brand of extra-virgin olive oil. We were transacting the essence of our family legacy. The oil symbolizes generational aspiration, parental sacrifice, time-honored tradition, hopes, dreams, love, passion, community, connection, integrity and the soul of a family that believes in its product and each other.
On December 12, 2016, our father passed away unexpectedly during our harvest. It was almost eight years to the day since we had imagined a higher goal and turned words to deed. He died doing what he loved.
He lived a simple, humble life. Noble and principled, he was deeply generous towards others, especially his family and friends. He laid an amazing foundation for us both personally and professionally, providing us the opportunity to grow our family property into the business we have today here in the U.S. He lived to see many of our successes and share in our celebration as our oil won the highest awards and received recognition as a world-class product.
A few of our customers and clients had the opportunity to meet our father during his numerous visits to the States, while others knew of him through pictures and our family story. We are grateful to the extended Laconiko family for your investment in us. We know that Laconiko would not be where it is today if not for our loyal customers and retail stores carrying our products. You were willing to open your doors to us when we were unknown. Thank you for taking a chance on us. Thank you for allowing us to share our story and our passion with you. Thank you for the love and respect you’ve shown our family through the years. Last but not least, thank you for your heartfelt feedback to help us perfect our craft and our products.
Now at this turning point, we pledge to maintain the values, standards, sincerity, honesty and passion that our father instilled in us. As we continue to grow and perfect our brand, it will always reflect our family’s values and legacy. We look forward to writing the next chapters of this story together with you.
In loving memory of our father, Vasilios Pierrakos, because some people need to be remembered.
With love, passion and dedication,
The Pierrakos Family