Steve Lehrhoff '96
Lehrhoff grew up nearby and initially went to a different college. When he transferred to Montclair State, he found himself immersed in a community where “everybody cares so much about how they’re doing,” he said.
Steve majored in Commercial Recreation, which was part of the School of Business. Professors Jack Samuels and Sue Westin were two of the most influential professors Lehrhoff worked with as a student. The Commercial Recreation program was a small, niche program, which led to a close, family-like environment for students and faculty in it.
“The Commercial Recreation program was spectacular,” Lehrhoff said. “There were so many opportunities.” He fondly recalled one trip where the students in the program went to Vermont to learn about the ski industry. Some of the classes he took were management and public speaking courses, both skills that he uses today at the helm of Olive That and More!, his artisan olive oil and vinegar shop. While he was a student, Lehrhoff balanced his full class schedule with various off-campus jobs. He always had a job during college – at one point, he managed a snowboard shop and at another, worked for a caterer. The time spent in these jobs helped him build business acumen and grow a strong professional network.
One year of Lehrhoff’s Montclair State career was spent in Walt Disney World as part of the Disney College program. The Disney College program gives college students the opportunity to live and work in one of Disney’s parks for a semester, interning while taking courses. That year, seven Montclair State students were chosen to participate in the program, including Lehrhoff, who was the only male student chosen.
“It was absolutely spectacular – the whole Disney program,” Lehrhoff recalled. He worked in Epcot Center, the busiest part of the park, for two months. He enjoyed his time there so much that he opted to take another semester in Disney World, extending his time there to one year.
After graduating, Lehrhoff took a job with Clear Channel Entertainment and later became the band tour manager for Elton John. With Elton John and his band, Lehrhoff traveled the world. He jokes that he “ate his way around the world,” exposing himself to various world cuisines and experiences. Still, Montclair held a place in his heart.
“Traveling the world has given me more of a love for Montclair, New Jersey,” he said. When he left the job with Elton John, Lehrhoff had the opportunity to go into business in the town he loves. Olive That and More! opened in 2012 and since then, Lehrhoff and his wife have become a fixture in the Montclair specialty foods scene. “There’s so much the town has to offer.”
Lehrhoff credits his success to the opportunities afforded to him at Montclair State. “Pay attention to your professors – they’re trying to assist you,” he advises current students. “Montclair State gave you the opportunity to learn if you wanted it. It’s helpful if you want the help.” He stresses that opportunities are cultivated, not just handed out, and Montclair State is a place where determined students can be successful.
His relationship with the University continues today. “I never thought that I’d be returning to Montclair State daily to pick up my son from daycare,” he said. He was recently back on campus to take a tour and speak with Dr. Samuels' class. “The parking situation is different,” he said, noting the first difference he saw between Montclair State when he attended and Montclair State today. “100% different.”