– Words by Darcy Nybo Photography by Lia Crowe
Entrepreneurs are always looking for a service or product that is so good, so unique, so wonderful, that it can’t help but succeed. The Graze Company is built on these concepts—and it continues to thrive and grow every single day.
Tucked inside Indigenous World Winery in Kelowna, The Graze Company offers a cornucopia of edible art, featuring an array of sweet and savoury feasts packed into handy to-go boxes or offered as full-table spreads. You can also find beautiful entertaining accompaniments like luxurious cheese knives and trays. This is a place that offers a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
In 2018, the original Graze Company in Vancouver was ready to expand, and Sheena Barbour, born in the Okanagan but living in Calgary, thought this Alberta city would be the perfect spot to “elevate any gathering beyond gastronomic delight” and “craft moments of beauty that will be remembered for a lifetime” by opening a Graze Company there.
After following The Graze Company since its conception, she was not only in love with the concept, but also the brand identity, their innovation, and the sense of community around them. She opened the doors to The Graze Company Calgary in October 2019.
“We had an amazing start in Calgary, then COVID-19 hit just a short five months after opening,” Sheena recalls. Suddenly, no one was hosting dinner parties or events.
“We shut down for a few weeks, and then had the brilliant idea to create the Wine & Unwind DIY Kit. The kit comes with all the ingredients and step-by-step instructions on how to create your very own charcuterie board paired with your choice of red, white or rosé wine.
“It was a hit; people were bored, and it was a fun activity to do from the comfort of their homes. Since then, we have launched a number of new products including the mini boxes—perfect for one—and charcuterie cups which are great for maintaining social distancing at large events and weddings.”
As the pandemic raged and then subsided, the company continued to create new boxes—like the upscale Champagne & Caviar Box, for example—and to thrive as a business. It seemed the time was right to open in Kelowna, and so in October 2021, Sheena launched The Graze Company Okanagan.
Foodie from childhood
“I’ve been a foodie since I was a child,” says Sheena, laughing as she adds, “My home was filled with warmth, delicious smells and yummy food. I remember when I was little with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen helping out. I used to have a recipe box with cards my mother gave me, and I would write down recipes she taught me. I would clip recipes I wanted to make out of magazines and to this day still have the box. I grew up in a family that loved to entertain friends and family and would watch cooking shows such as Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet.”
Sheena’s passion for food continued into her 20s when she first started travelling overseas to Asia and Europe. She also worked at one of her favourite wineries, Mission Hill, where she continued to broaden her culinary experience. And, in fact, Sheena’s connections with various wineries have allowed Graze to offer Canadian wines with its various boards and boxes.
“Today, our most asked-for boxes are our original Graze boxes that come in small, medium and large, as well as our birthday boxes,” Sheena says. “The birthday boxes have crackers and a beverage, either a sparkling rosé lemonade or a mini-Moet champagne. They also have locally made pink macaroons and cake pops and truffles—and one of my favourites—a Merlot cheddar.”
Bored with boards?
“Impossible!” says Sheena. “We work with the most beautiful products for the best customers. We have an amazing team of women in our kitchen who help feed the soul of our business. If anything, I feel inspired every day!”
Connecting to community
Food aside, the other thing Sheena loves about Graze is how it connects to the communities it serves.
“I am beyond fortunate with the support I get from both the Calgary and Kelowna communities,” she said. “The connections I have made and built with my vendors are also amazing. We use mostly local products, and that includes our artisanal jellies and jams. It’s the best feeling to hear that a client received a Graze Box as a gift and is now using us to gift someone else!”
She adds: “Supporting the communities that allow us to run our business has always been at the forefront for me. Since opening both locations, we make sure to always support the charities in our community that give back to those in need.”
Holiday boxes and workshops
“Christmas is the busiest season of the year for us—and the season that’s the most fun,” says Sheena. “Not only do we get to create the most beautiful holiday-inspired Graze Tables for large events, we also work around the clock to fulfill corporate gifting orders.”
This year, Graze is launching some of Sheena’s “personal favourites,” like the Holiday Charcuterie Tree, the Holiday Box with Wine, and a Holiday Dessert box, which will include chocolate ornaments, handcrafted by a local chocolatier.
Workshops are also ongoing, helping to emphasize the heart of the brand: “to enjoy good food and wine with good company.”
“We recently have restarted our workshops and they are not to be missed,” Sheena says. “Expect to enjoy great wine with feature sommeliers, while learning how to create a show-stopping charcuterie board.”
The Kelowna location will be partnering in the new year with top winery groups, such as Black Swift Vineyards, for workshops.
As The Graze Company continues to expand and flourish, it’s easy to see that what started as a passion project has grown to a business beyond their wildest dreams.
Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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