‘We Are Family’

5 Family Businesses in Kelowna + West Kelowna

Oh, family businesses. They give me the fuzzy feels, especially because I have been part of this rare breed of business. Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley is a place that still has so many family-owned and operated businesses. Small business owners tend to wear many hats – here are some of those stories:

Giovanni & the Lauretta / Barista & Owners, Giobean Espresso

“My Nonno (grandfather) told me as a small boy growing up in Italy: ‘coffee should be as strong as a lion, dark as night and as sweet as love.” 

That was the memory that started it all for the owner, Giovanni, or as locals call him, ‘Gio’. After meeting in mountains of northern Italy (for real), Italian born Gio and English lass, Lucy, left a successful life in the UK to follow a dream – two kids, four suitcases, a business plan and a bucket load of hope later, Giobean Espresso was born. And our caffeinated lives became so much better for it.

I can safely say that starting a new business is hard. Starting a new business in a new country without previously owning a coffee shop and during a recession is super hard. For Gio, coffee is not what he does, but who is he, and so he trusted. The Lauretta family not only did it, but they also amped up Kelowna’s coffee game. After all, Gio was one of thirty elite Douwe Egberts tasters in the world, training more than 10,000 people on the world of ‘espresso’ in his past life.

Lucy, along with daughter, Claudia has been right by his side since she was 12, they serve up their distinct custom blend of coffee made by Gio, using 100% Premium Arabica beans that are organic and fair-traded, as well. Oh yeah, the patio is also the perfect place for a spot of people watching in the heart of downtown.

‘Andiamo a prendere un caffe?’ Let’s go and have a coffee (except it’s more than ‘just’ coffee here).

Gio Bean Espresso, Kelowna

Photo Credit: Adam Boost

1320 Water Street, Kelowna 

Jordan Marr & Vanessa Samur / Unearthed Organics

Farmer Jordan is known for growing top-notch organic produce on his 5-acre central Kelowna plot. So much so, he’s been supplying the Okanagan’s best restaurants for years – from Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill, Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Winery and Block One at 50th Parallel, to QB GelatoThe Curious Café and Waterfront Wines (and me). His fresh sheet even includes ‘farmer hugs’ for the low low price of $0, which I make a point of adding. Kamloops native, Jordan does the farming, and partner, Vanessa is a midwife. Neither of them grew up on a farm, but, having met at UBC Vancouver, they got interested in the idea of food security. After a few stints working on farms and moving to the Okanagan, now they raise their two boys – Levon (3) and August (6 months) on the ‘massive playground’ they call home.

“The farm produces a wide variety of premium veggies and herbs for sale to restaurants and households in the Okanagan. Our approach to growing is to try to create a healthy, biologically active soil, stemming from the belief that this will lead to nutritious, flavourful produce. In the last few years, I have developed a particular interest in chillies and beans. This year, I’ll be growing 60 varieties of chillies and close to 2-dozen heirloom bean varieties, which means that by fall, I should have a really stunning array of dried chillies and dry beans available – I’m super excited about it.”

Photo Credit: Scott August

Tucked away down Mayer Road, Kelowna

Kristi & James Caldwell / Co-Owners, Wiseacre Farm Distillery 

When a guy from Ottawa and a gal from Kelowna, randomly meet at a dog park in Vancouver, and then move back to Kelowna in 2014 for an adventure-and-a-half with twists and turns, including a runt cow, along the way. Caldwell Heritage Farm is not only a farm but also a home. Kristi’s parents, Jake and Julie, purchased the property in 1990 as their retirement project and a place where Jake could display his beloved vintage tractors. With their sudden passing, Kristi and James left their metro Vancouver lives and stepped foot into the magical pine-filled project with a legacy.

Today, it’s home to more than just Kristi, James, Olive, Charlie and Kelowna’s newest craft distillery, but on that farm, there was a cow (named Valentine), E.I.E.I.O. Well, in fact, on that farm there are 2 dogs, 1 cat, 49 chickens, 2 donkeys (Peppa and Patsy, and “any of which make pretty solid tour guides if we’re busy out in the back nine when visitors arrive”, jokes Kristi.

The newest addition in their ever-evolving adventure is Wiseacre Farm Distillery – a teeny tiny batch distillery and tasting room nestled in the woods of their beautiful 6-acre farm in southeast Kelowna. Dubbed by chief wiseacre and closet cow-cuddler, James as ‘a wee little alcohol producer with a farming problem’, their spirits and cocktails pay tribute to the legacy of the land; using ingredients found a stone’s throw away, fermented, distilled and bottled right there.

Since the day I met them, I have been treated like family – Kristi and James are good people, and good people deserve good things. Their batch numbers may be small, but the love, care and attention (along with the usual blood, sweat and tears) distilled here is pretty ginormous. I can’t wait for you to experience the magic for yourself. Along with that purchase of gin or vodka (or both), how about you take home a dozen free-range eggs to show the busy ladies at back some love, too? (Because you can).

Wiseacre Farm Distillery Owners

4275 Goodison Road, Kelowna

Jaye Coward and Ali Siegmueller / Farm BoundBottle None (and Upside Cidery)

Serial eco-entrepreneurs; born and raised in the Okanagan; committed to sustainability and our local food systems; with a motto of progress over perfection. Farm Bound bridges that gap between people, food and the environment. Starting with a single location in Vernon, last year they opened Kelowna’s first zero-waste grocery store (which is now Footprints Co).

Helping us think differently about plastic pollution, especially in our day-to-day, sisters Jaye and Ali launched ‘Bottle None’ – their Okanagan-made shampoo and conditioner bars that can replace three plastic bottles. Oh yeah, no big deal, but they’ve made their way into 57 stores in only four months. One can’t but assume that somebody with a deep connection to mother earth and born in the mecca of the Okanagan would come from some sort a farming background, right? I assumed wrong.

“For my background, I’m so terrible at growing things. So I took a Permaculture design course, thinking that I was going to start a tea farm. In the course, they talk about plants working together as a community and how that relates to humans in society. I suddenly had this huge weight lifted off my shoulders and realized I don’t have to grow things. I am excellent at sales and marketing so I can help the local food movement by leveraging my strengths to connect people with the farmer. Farmers mostly want to be doing what they love and that’s working the earth and growing the food, many of them don’t like going to the farmers market”, says Jaye.

Cheers to that.

Re-use. Re-purpose. Reduce. Recycle. Repeat.

BottleNone Kelowna

Karnail & the Sidhu Family / Owners, Kalala Organic Estate Winery

Karnail Sidhu, the owner of Kalala Organic Estate Winery in West Kelowna, has been in the Okanagan since 1993. With a diploma in electrical engineering in hand, he quickly discovered that his India-based education wasn’t recognized here. That’s when he resorted to plan b – returning to his organic farming roots, three generations strong. From vineyard-to-glass, Karnail learnt from Kelowna’s pioneering organic family at Summerhill Pyramid Winery for 10 years, before making his small-lot certified organic winery dream come true. Even though Karnail doesn’t drink alcohol, he still has a reputation for producing consistent, award-winning wines – it just means knowledge has to be passed by other means (and I like that).

Family wise, wife, Narinder handles the office, the eldest daughter, Simran works in the tasting room, the youngest daughter, Kiran helps to bottle and package the wines, and “while other employees may not be related by blood, everyone at Kalala is family.”

“In our opinion, being able to give back to our community that’s supported us from the beginning is the greatest accomplishment of any small business”, says Narinder.

Kalala Winery, West Kelowna

3361 Glencoe Road, West Kelowna

And that is why we support local businesses, people.

Please keep on doing what you do, in the way you do it.

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