Inside Smarty - Richard OliverRichard headshot
Susan Young
Susan Young
May 30, 2024

Richard Oliver’s presence at Smarty improves the beauty of our grounds and the spirits of everyone he meets. His life, marked by a series of unique and enriching experiences, shapes his profound impact on our culture.

Richard and his little brother
Richard holding his younger brother

Richard was immersed in environments that fostered his curiosity and resilience from a young age. He grew up near the site of the Port Chicago explosion during World War II. When he was at a neighbor's house, he heard the explosion and saw the smoke, and the shockwave blew out the windows of his home 30 miles away!

His childhood one-bedroom home also served as a backdrop in the Academy Award-winning film "All the Kings Men." So, I guess that means he's famous?

Richard's professional path has been equally diverse and adventurous. He ventured into the world of sales, demonstrating an innate ability to connect with people and understand their needs. 

He later transitioned to more hands-on roles, including a significant period as a gardener at Stony Hill Winery in Napa Valley, CA.

Richard as a handsome young adult
Richard as a very handsome young adult

While at the winery, he met advertising mogul Norman Strouse, the then-CEO of J. Walter Thompson Advertising. Near Mr. Strouse's property, Richard purchased a 4-acre property and built a Swiss Country Inn. Richard transformed the property into a welcoming retreat for guests, and he and his wife happily managed it for 20 years.

Now, at Smarty, Richard continues to be a vital part of our team. His kind smile and warm demeanor brighten our days. He approaches every task with meticulousness, born from years of diverse experiences. 

We're grateful he keeps our grounds tidy. If you don't watch out, he'll prune you!

Richard and his son Jonathan
Richard with his son Jonathan

What are your favorite work-related accomplishments?

I worked for AAA in Napa, CA, and they had a contest in the entire Bay Area to see who could get the most signups. I worked really hard and took 3rd place in the region, winning a cash prize. The next year, 1974, we used that cash prize to fly my wife and daughter to Switzerland.

Who or what inspires you or has inspired you?

My 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Landon, inspired me to do something about the stray dogs. In our town, there were a lot of loose dogs on the streets, and we didn't have a dog kennel. 

I decided to build a kennel on our property, and I'd go around collecting stray dogs. Then I would write an article, "Just Dog Talk," in the local paper every week describing the dogs I'd collected and what their temperaments were, and people would come and adopt the dogs.

It wasn't fancy; I was just an 8th-grade kid running it. I fed the dogs and took care of them. Once, my brother let the dogs out and took them to play in the cemetery next door, but the cemetery people got mad, and my brother had to bring them all back.

What life advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Follow your dream, and keep doing exactly what you're doing. You're going to love running an inn!

What do you do to get energized?

I like to dance. Dancing has always been a big part of my life. I still like to dance when I get the chance, but those chances don't come as often as I'd like these days. 

I think dancing is what energized the early settlers of the Western US so they could cross the plains.

I'm also very motivated by my kids and grandkids. Everyone should look out for their kids.

Richard and his wife
Richard and his wife

We’re immensely grateful to have Richard Oliver here at Smarty. His daily contributions remind us of the value of dedication, the importance of kindness, and the beauty of consistency. His journey encourages us all to embrace every new opportunity with enthusiasm and an open heart.

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