By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal

TUPELO • When Jimmy Pappas decided to get into the olive oil business in 2017, he started small.

“We had three pallets shipped over and about 3,000 bottles of olive oil,” said Pappas, the longtime Tupelo hotelier and owner of the Summit Center.

While growing up in Greece, Pappas had worked in the family olive oil orchards. When he came to the U.S. and found his way to Tupelo, he imported small quantities of the olive oil to give away to family and friends. Then he and longtime friend and business partners Sam Calloway in 2017 decided to build a business to sell olive oil in the U.S. And not just any olive oil, but olive oil from Pappas’ native Metamorphosis and eight nearby villages.

“My Greek Orchard” was born, and the oil is bottled and labeled in nearby Sikia, Greece, with labels designed by Pappas’ nephew Hristos Zervakos.

It has been a hit with customers.

“Our second shipment six months later was four pallets,” Pappas said. And just last Friday, the largest shipment to date – eight pallets – was delivered.

“Sam and I unloaded 795 boxes,” he said.

Along with the thousands of bottles of olive oil are 3-liter tin cans of it, which they hope will catch the eye of restaurants that need and want to buy high quality olive oil in larger quantity.

“We have a few restaurants now using our olive oil, and we think with these larger sizes, it’s more economical and we can attract more restaurants as customers,” Pappas said.

Pappas and Calloway travel to Greece regularly, and Pappas was most recently there in January to oversee some of the processing of the olive oil he imports. It’s that batch that has made its way to Tupelo, bottled and canned under the My Greek Orchard label.

“The company that processes the olive oil had it in nine large containers – some 800 tons – and I was assured that we would have the best of it bottled in our name,” Pappas said.

With retail outlets in Mississippi and Alabama selling My Greek Orchard, Pappas is planning to expand into Louisiana and Tennessee.

“We even have one vendor in Arkansas right now, and once I close the Summit Center, I’ll have more time to recruit vendors,” Pappas said.

The Summit Center, a longtime convention center and meeting place, will serve its last buffet this Sunday, and will host its final event May 4.

“Then I will spend all my time selling My Greek Orchard olive oil,” Pappas said.