Off the Cuff: Leeza Ramsey
Tucked away in the parking lot on College St. lies one of the hidden gems of Oberlin commerce. Oberlin Market, an organic grocery store and café, sells everything from herbal teas to bison meat, serving both townspeople and students looking for a break from CDS. The store is owned and operated by Leeza Ramsey — incidentally, a veteran of Oberlin College Athletics.
How did you get involved in this business?
First as a customer and then I decided to purchase it in 2002.
You were a coach before that, right?
Yeah. At the time I was coaching Women’s Volleyball at Elyria High School and I was head coach for the Oberlin team before that.
What made you decide to switch to running the store?
It was really a combination of life goals and food fantasies. It was good timing as well because I found out about the store right at the end of the season. When you’re a coach, you just get so locked in to the team while the season is going on that you can’t think about anything else.
How is running a business similar or different to coaching?
It’s actually similar in a lot of ways. I sometimes like to think of the employees as being like my assistant coaches and the customers being the players. It’s mainly similar in that I can’t do it myself. The daily operation and the general mission of the store has to go through a lot of people.
Are your customers mostly College students or townspeople?
There’s a good split. A lot of College students shop here but because of their particular living circumstances, most of them are not shopping for groceries on a regular basis. So, more dollars definitely come in from townspeople.
What about your employees?
It’s also about half and half. I like that mix because when they are working with townspeople, college students tend to fall in line and pick up cues from them.
What are your most popular items?
More and more we’re focusing on food service. When we started it was just the grocery store. Now many people are coming in for lunch or coffee. We have an advantage there because it’s not like people are going to drive to Trader Joe’s to get a scone in the middle of the day.
What’s next for Oberlin Market?
We pipe dream a lot about expanding upstairs and opening an espresso bar there. There’s also a flat roof above the store and we’ve thought about putting up a railing to have outdoor eating there.
I know your husband Jeff coaches the football team. Are you still involved with Oberlin athletics at all?
Just as a football fan!