Meet Laurissa, Irene, and Brian! The family putting their Italian roots to good use!
Meet Irene, Laurissa, and Brian! The Cardenas Taproom is certainly a family affair! They grew up in northern NJ, but after two decades in Center City and South Philadelphia they’ve definitely made this city their home.
Irene, aka “Olive Oil Lady” not only is the mama bear, but she really runs the show and day to day operations in the store. By her side is her son Brian and his wife Olya. On any given day you will see at least one of them in the shop.
Laurissa, daughter to Irene and sister to Brain ( the one who started the whole dang thing!) is behind the scenes with her husband Carlos making sure operations are running smoothly.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Cardenas on a holiday weekend or for the Italian Market Festival you’ll be able to catch the whole family, even Laurissa and Carlos’ boys Emilio (8) and Marcelo (5) who love to help customers!
This trio is no stranger to a family owned business. Irene’s parents owned a swimming pool installation and supply business in NJ that is still going strong 65 years later! Both Laurissa and Brain worked there growing up, so needless to say the entrepreneurial spirit is in their blood.
It all started in the summer of 2013. Laurissa and her husband, Carlos wanted to open up a business in Philly. They had recently visited a lovely olive oil shop in Bethlehem, PA and thought why don’t we have one of these in Philadelphia? “We are both dreamers, and a bit impulsive. It certainly takes that vision and determination to be an entrepreneur”. A driving force behind the desire to open an olive oil shop came from Laurissa’s roots. Her great grandmother was born in Sicily and that culture was very present in her upbringing.
One evening while strolling through the Italian Market on their way to dinner they passed a store front with a for rent sign in the window. A few weeks later Laurissa and Carlos had signed the lease and began renovations. “Our renovation budget was small, so in the evenings (after our day jobs) Carlos and I with the help of our family demo-ed and rebuilt the interior of the store. It was previously a check cashing business, and was in need of a major update! The reno took 3 months. That first weekend we opened, the place was packed and I remember thinking, OMG what have we done, are we going to be able to keep up! Nine years later the business is still growing and evolving, and we are so thankful for the customers, employees and friends that keep it going!”
Roses and Thorns
“We absolutely love being a part of the Italian Market community and its rich history. The food scene in Philadelphia is amazing and we love knowing our customers and neighbors. One of the things that surprises us the most is the diverse and amazing customers that we meet through the business. Being in a tourist destination in Philly, we have customers from all over the world. There is a remote lodge in Alaska that orders our products for their restaurant and we even have a customer that we ship to in Japan! The people we meet are so interesting and the love of great food brings us together.”