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Charles and Brandi Ducharme embarked on their entrepreneurial adventure, The Olive Oil Experience, on what Charles admits was "kind of a fluke.""I was visiting relatives and had the opportunity to sample some peach balsamic vinegar," he says. "Once you taste really superior balsamic vinegar or olive oil, there is just no going back. We decided that the Rockford area needed a store like this so that other people can experience what we did."Rockford area residents seem to agree. Since opening in the East Riverside Retail Center in 2011, The Olive Oil Experience went through an expansion and then a move in 2014 into a larger, 4,000-square-foot facility on East Riverside Boulevard. The location now houses three separate stores The Olive Oil Experience, Spice Galleria, and Be A Casual Gourmet all under one roof. Also in 2014, the Ducharmes opened a second location of The Olive Oil Experience on State Street in Rockford to take part in the city's revitalization of the downtown section.The Olive Oil Experience carries more than 75 varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. Their selection of olive oils is imported from all over the globe, while all balsamic vinegars are from Modena, Italy, the originator of the authentic traditional production method. Spice Galleria offers over 300 different spices and herbs, as well as in-house blends made by Charles himself. The Casual Gourmet completes the foodie shopping experience with a large selection of gourmet condiments such as mustards, mayonnaises, and barbecue sauces.The Ducharmes are ardent supporters of numerous local charities, as well as members of the Winnebago Buy Local group. "When you buy local, you strengthen your community," Charles says. "The local shop owner you buy from might be your next door neighbor, who in turn will help you out when you need it."

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