A local meat shop is marinating in success spiced with a perfect blend of entrepreneurial enthusiasm and community comradery.
Tofino’s Picnic Charcuterie was nominated for Small Business BC’s Premiere’s Choice Award in October and announced a top ten finalist on Dec. 13. The top five will be announced later this month.
It’s an exciting score for Tina Windsor’s young store that opened in 2014 and has been heralded for its focus on ethically and locally raised meat.
“We only buy meat that is raised in B.C. and is hormone and antibiotic free,” Windsor told the Westerly News. “We do everything the old-school way, by hand.”
She acknowledged the ethical route she’s taking is not the cheapest and staying true to her values impacts her store’s profit margins, but she’s committed to keeping her vision of the business intact.
“I’m the kind of person who will die poor and lonely with my morals gripped to my chest. I followed this career path because of the values that I have and to deviate from them for the sake of business would be going against everything that I’ve worked for up to this point,” she said.
“It’s still something that I struggle with because obviously it makes a lot more sense to buy low and sell high, but the whole point of this business is to support local food.”
She said the hands-on approach she takes to her products’ preparation helps ensure nothing is wasted.
“We really want to honour the animal that we’re using…We make sure that everything is used as efficiently as possible and that also means being able to get as much off the bone as possible,” she said.
“We do also spend a premium amount to support local and small scale agriculture and we want to make sure that we keep doing that, so we need to make sure we get as much out of each animal as possible.”
Windsor, a landscape architect by trade, said meat is resource heavy and it’s important to promote efficient land management.
“A lot of meat is really bad for the environment and your body. I don’t think that means you shouldn’t eat meat. I think that means you should eat less, but really good meat,” she said.
“We’re, kind of, a triple threat because we bring in local meat, we bring in meat that’s been raised with a lot of respect for the animal, and we also put a lot of respect into it.”
She said this respect helped win over a local clientele that’s wary of meat consumption.
“A lot of people have really strong moral and ethical values here and a lot of people just didn’t want to eat meat because they didn’t want to buy meat that they didn’t know about or couldn’t ask questions about,” she said.
“We offer a lot of people who were either vegetarian or pescatarians an opportunity to know a lot about the meat that they’re eating and they can feel good about it…It feels good that we can give people that option because it’s something that they wanted but just didn’t have access to.”
Windsor worked at a charcuterie in Victoria before moving to Tofino in January 2014 and was surprised to find herself on the fast-track to small business ownership.
“I moved here only temporarily because I needed a quiet place to do some work…But, I started talking to people about the potential of opening a business like this and people got really excited,” she said.
“The general feeling was that it was something Tofino would really appreciate and support…I had never really planned on ever being a business owner. It was just that there was an opportunity because it wasn’t being done, and there seemed to be a demand, so I took advantage of that demand and got started.”
She took little time to take advantage and watched her temporary stay quickly evolve into a sustainable career.
“It was totally bonkers,” she said. “I moved here in January and had a business plan by the end of February and financing pulled together by the beginning of March.”
Renovations were done on the small converted garage she procured and equipment was installed by the end of May. Her charcuterie opened in June.
“It was a pretty intense four or five months leading up to actually opening the doors for sure, and it definitely wasn’t a solo thing; there was a lot of people that helped me get there,” Windsor said adding John Gilmore of Trilogy Fish was “absolutely essential.”
Along with Gilmore’s generous assistance, Windsor touted the local business community’s commitment to pointing potential customers her way as a key reason for her store’s success.
“The biggest boon for us has been people talking about us,” she said adding the charcuterie’s location is out of sight from passers-by.
“Without that kind of word-of-mouth support, we would probably have fizzled and died a long time ago because we’re just so not obvious…The overarching thing has been the community’s willingness to put in a good word for us, given our location, which is strategically a nightmare.”
The charcuterie’s placement in the Small Business B.C. Award’s top ten list was based on online voting and Windsor was stoked locals took the time to buoy her chances.
“It was the immediate community recognizing that we were something special and something they appreciated,” she said.
“There’s so many things and so much noise and even though it’s just a little bit of time the fact that people took it is really sweet…It felt really good and it solidified the fact that we are very much supported by our community.”
The award’s ultimate winner will receive $1,500 as well as a year’s worth of Small Business B.C.’s educational resources.
“It would be really lovely to win this award because it means we can get access to a lot of business resources and I don’t have training in business,” Windsor said. “So far it’s been really great, but we can always do better.”