The seed of a California olive grower's success were planted right here in the Gem City.
“My parents are Greek,” said Dayton native Theo Stephan. “Every weekend we would go to a parties or have one. There was always good food.”
Global Gardens, the “farm-to-bottle” olive oil and gourmet food business Stephan runs with daughters Sunita and Anita Williams, received an eight-page spread in the August edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The edition focused on families.
Stephan said a crew of nine -- photographer and food stylist included -- spent three days on her Santa Barbara County farm for the article "Family Trees."
"They were much fun, so unpretentious,” Stephan said of the experience. “It was high-energy. We had a lot of fun.”
Stephan said the biggest surprise is when an older Greek couple drove two hours through California traffic just to met her at her store.
When they arrived, Stephan didn’t even realize the article has been published when they walked in.
“It was like my mom and dad walking in the door,” Stephan said, noting that they spoke in Greek. “They came up to meet me just for the magazine.”
Stephan grew up in Dayton's Greek community.
Archive photo of Theo Stephan with her daughters Sunita Williams, then 12 (right, wearing tocque), and Anita Williams, then 11 (left). Photo by Rafael Maldonado, Jr.
Her parents, Helen and Themistokle Stephan (Americanized from Stefanovitch at Ellis Island), died several years ago, but she still has friends and family members in Dayton.
Her sister Renee Nicholas is a teacher for Vandalia-Butler School District. Her sister Kathy Spyrou is a teacher in Centerville.
Stephan, a 1978 Belmont High School grad, got her first job in advertising at the former Rike's Department Store in downtown Dayton when she was just 16.
She founded Real Art Design Group in 1985.
Stephan visited California often for work and would rent "cool cars" for the drive through Wine Country. After years of work trips, she left Yellow Springs for California in 1996 and was the first to plant olive trees in Santa Barbara County.
“I was able to combine all of my loves,” the gardener and brand developer said. “I was ready for a lifestyle change.”
Stephan sold Real Art in 2001, but still helps companies with branding.
Global Gardens' unique foods range from balsamic vinegar to Indian Curry Mustard. It has three olive oil and gourmet food clubs.
“I’ve traveled and tasted a lot of food around the world,” Stephan said. “It is a joy to see people enjoy, and for me to be a part of people’s dinners, conversations and parties (through food).”
The Global Gardens farm stand. Dayton native Theo Stephan owns the company. (Source: Global Gardens)