He had spent the last 17 years working in the banking and financial processing industries. She had spent the last 11 years as a classroom teacher. So it just makes sense that when this married couple finally launched a business last May they would create a store that sells gourmet olive oils and basalmic vinegars.
Jason and Joy Beard operate Cordell’s, a classy, cultured boutique-style establishment in the River Oaks Shopping Center. And yes, it really does make sense that they’d proceed as they have, but only if their back story is understood.
“For most of our [nearly 15-year] marriage, Joy and I have talked about doing something along these lines,” Jason said recently. “And for the last four or five, we have talked about where we should do it. And prayed about it. We looked at going to different culinary schools in Texas and the U.S. We looked at going to school overseas. Every time we went down one of those paths, the road went back to Abilene.”
Though they stop short of calling themselves “world travelers,” the Beards like to take vacations and they like to savor new food experiences both at home and abroad. “We are always trying to eat locally,” Jason said. “We were always bringing things back with us. We even started traveling with an ice chest in our car, to bring things back. In talking to friends, we learned they were doing the same things.”
It was then that they thought to themselves, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a place in Abilene where fine and novel foods could be found.
“We wanted to create a store that would be like community, where our customers could come in and we could learn from them, and they could learn from us,” he said.
Joy appreciates the learning aspects of the new livelihood. “When I was a teacher I was trying to help kids get to their very best future. Here, we help people get to something fun and something very elemental. Everybody has to eat.”
Jason said that all their goods are the highest quality they can find. The vast majority of their products are hand-made, whether from Texas, the U.S., or imported from around the world.
The oils and vinegars give things a distinctively Mediterranean flavor, which promises healthfulness as well as zestfulness. The oils and vinegars, dubbed the “stars of the store,” are not just gourmet offerings. They are, as Jason says, “kitchen basics.” The most popular oil is “Tuscan herb,” deemed a great companion item to a [dipping] bread. The most popular vinegar is a white basalmic, “Cranberry pear.”
Cordell’s also stocks coffees, chocolates, cheeses, tea, spices, and other specialty products.
The Beards come highly recommended by Chef Joel at Bonterra Blu Restaurant, in Clyde.
Says Joel: “They’re bold. Bright. Innovative. Doing the same thing we’re doing [at Bonterra Blu]… trying to turn the tide, to make Abilene more of a foodie town. As more of this type of business comes along, we’re all going to have to lock arms and join the team or it goes away.”
Chef Joel said he uses Cordell’s vinegars in his vinaigrette dressings. “They have nice grilled cheeses from San Angelo. Fresh locally baked bread. They’re on their way to becoming a food emporium. I love what they’re doing.”
For their own part, the Beards have a saying: If you like to cook or like to eat, we are the store for you.
“Jason is better at explaining,” Joy said. “But I just love research. And our customers are a blast. I’ve made a lot of friends.”