A tiny Tofino meat shop is one of B.C.’s most popular small businesses.
Tina Windsor’s Picnic Charcuterie was recently announced as a top five finalist for Small Business B.C.’s Premier’s People’s Choice Award.
“It’s fantastic to see a new small business achieve this kind of recognition in British Columbia, and Tina has really excelled into making her way in the hearts and stomachs of Tofitians. I think we are all really proud of what she has achieved,” Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly.
“Tofino is well known for the abundance and diversity of small businesses, and Picnic Charcuterie embodies what we and our visitors love—owned and operated by a local with a passion for her work, selling products that are locally and regionally sourced, and made right here in Tofino.”
The Premiere’s People’s Choice Award is entirely based on online voting and Small Business B.C.’s communications manager Mark Blendheim commended Tofino’s relatively small population for punching well above their weight in terms of support.
“They managed to beat out all the other communities and all the other contenders, so Tofino should definitely be proud of themselves,” he said.
Along with the accolades associated with being the most popular small business in B.C., the award comes with a $1,500 cash prize and a year’s worth of free access to Small Business B.C.’s educational tools and mentorship programs.
The online vote ended on Nov. 30 and the winner will be announced at Small Business B.C.’s Awards Ceremony on Feb. 23 in Vancouver.
“Attending a Small Business B.C. Awards ceremony is definitely something we encourage, not just the award nominees, but the public to do,” Blendheim said. “It’s a super inspirational evening.”
Windsor told the Westerly she is thrilled to represent Picnic Charcuterie and Tofino at the ceremony.
“We had enough people vote for us that we made it into the top five out of hundreds of nominees, so I’m going for myself as much as I am for the people who put the effort in to go and vote,” she said.
“People even made a point of going to the Small Business B.C. Awards website and writing wonderful thoughtful comments. I’ve never felt more like I was part of the community. It’s super supportive. It’s wonderful.”
It’s been a consistent series of surprises for Windsor since her shop was announced as an award nominee in November and, she said, the community’s support has been overwhelming and inspiring.
“It was a big surprise to get nominated. It was a big surprise to make it to the top 10 and it was an even bigger surprise to make it to the top five” she said.
“It’s definitely lit a small fire to do an even better job because I really want to honour that group of people that appreciate us.”
Traveling to Vancouver to attend a major awards ceremony she’s a finalist for, is a trip Windsor never thought she’d take when she arrived in Tofino in 2014. Although she had worked at a charcuterie in Victoria, she never thought she’d own one herself.
“Even if it was in my sights at some point, I don’t think it was ever something I thought was really going to happen so it is very exciting that it’s now a reality,” she said.
Motivated by encouragement from family, friends and locals, and buoyed by the local business community’s support, Windsor opened her shop within three months of being in Tofino.
She said the confidence locals have expressed in her through the SBBC award’s voting has been a “heartening” confidence booster.
“A business is a service and especially small business where you’re starting something from scratch, you’re kind of really putting your neck out there. You’re putting your values out there and you’re starting something that you believe in and that you think is worth doing,” she said.
“In a small town where everybody knows everybody, it means a lot to be noticed and for people to want to support the individual as much as they want to support the business.”
She added Tofino’s business community reached out to offer vital and appreciated assistance.
“In Tofino, being a very small town that’s put through the ringer every summer, I think there is a sense between business owners where you kind of just roll your eyes and say, ‘Yeah, I know man.’ That just breeds a different level of comradery,” she said. “I’ve had business advice from countless people in Tofino.”
She is careful to ensure Picnic Charcuterie’s wares are ethically and locally raised and produced and said the values behind her business fit perfectly in Tofino’s “community of eaters” that loves good food but is also environmentally conscious and cares about where the food they’re buying comes from.
“We’re offering people a food experience. They can roll into the shop and ask lots of questions,” she said. “We’re nice folks and we try and engage with people as they come through the door, even when it’s really busy. I think people appreciate that we take the time to walk them through when they have questions and people do ask a lot of questions and it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s a very personal experience.”
She added the interpretive experience her shop offers helps motivate shoppers to think about what they’re eating.
“People tend to eat better, eat less and eat more communally when food is part of the culture and not just something that gets you through the day,” she said.
“I think it’s really important. Especially for farmers; the people who make their living off the raw material that goes into food.”
She said the Island’s independent farmers are having a tough time making their way through the shadows of large corporations and big box stores.
“There’s a lot of people that try to make a living as a farmer and can’t because there’s no market for their product,”she said. “There’s not enough farms in Port Alberni to feed the people of Port Alberni, but yet there’s farmers who can’t seem to make ends meet there and it’s because there’s these giant box stores that are bringing in food from elsewhere that people are buying and consuming and that just doesn’t really make sense to me at all.”
She hopes to see more shops like hers pop up and support local producers and suggested the best way for her to lobby for change is to lead by example.
“I don’t feel the need to power through and change minds. I think there’s something really nice about passively doing what you’re doing and inspiring the people that come through as they come through,” she said.
“You don’t really change peoples’ minds by yelling at them. It’s always just by leading by example and being true to what your values are…That tends to be a really positive way to make change.”
She encourages anyone considering an entrepreneurial pursuit to never give up and to reach out for the help that’s abundant on the Coast.
“There is a ton that you’ll never know, but there are a lot of people who know a lot and can help you,” she said.
“There’s a lot of ways and different ways to get really organized and to outsource skills and that’s something that makes the overall picture a lot less intimidating…You’ll always have moments when you feel like it’s too much but that’s not an excuse to not do it.”
After a brief winter break, Picnic Charcuterie reopened on Feb. 15 and Windsor encourages anyone unfamiliar with the shop to come check it out.
She added that she’d like to see Picnic Charcuterie become a hub for local and ethically-minded foodies.
“This is a really great time to come check us out, when they’ve got time and we’ve got time and summer hasn’t hit yet,” she said.
“If people want to get involved with us, or want to learn from us, then definitely take a peek at our website [www.picniccharcuterie.com] every so often or any of our social media outlets and we’ll get that community of food and meat and cheese lovers going.”