Thriving In Oliver BC: Black Sage Butcher
Matt and Ravina, lived in Vancouver before they uprooted and moved to Oliver, BC, a rolling valley thriving with lush vineyards and orchards in summer that meet the intriguing semi-arid landscape of sage brush, desert grasses, and ponderosa pine.
They instantly fell in love with Oliver during their first vacation together in October 2014.
Ravina expressed, “We thought it was beautiful and saw a lot of potential in terms of opportunities. There is so much abundance!”
With dreams of opening up a B n’ B and escaping the big city rat race, they decided not to wait any longer. They sold their apartment and made the move in February 2018.
Making Quick Connections
Ravina explained, “We came with a really open mind that we wanted to make this work, embrace opportunities, and connect with people.”
Matt added, “We started going to the Firehall Brewery and we met people right away. People would say, “Come back to my place and play board games!” Or ask, “What are you doing next weekend? It was really easy to find that core group of people.”
Ravina became part of the Oliver Tourism Association (OTA) Board of Directors within two months. She is currently involved in supporting tourism initiatives in Oliver and the surrounding area.
Matt, with twenty years of experience working in kitchens, including one of Vancouver’s best Mediterranean restaurants, Provence Marinaside, coupled with a culinary education at Vancouver Community College (VCC), quickly got on with Miradoro Restaurant.
Even while building Black Sage Butcher, Ravina still feels strongly about maintaining her connections with the wine industry.
Ravina explained, “I love meeting the people, I love the networking opportunities, and I love learning about wine. Michael Bartier is such a fantastic teacher and he’s so passionate about what he does.”
Hiking, Snowshoeing & Wine Tasting
When I asked Matt and Ravina what they love to do in their off-time in Oliver, Ravina quickly responded, “Hiking, snowshoeing, and wine tasting!”
And I concur. I’ve hiked nearly every trail in Oliver! There are so many beautiful ones including the International Hike and Bike Trail that runs along the Okanagan River Channel, McIntyre Bluff, the Golden Mile Trail, the Oliver Tower Trail, White Lake Loop, and McKinney and Baldy Mountain snow shoe trails in winter. There are also a myriad of mountain biking trails that I’ve not ventured onto yet.
And for wine tasting, Oliver’s got over fifty wineries, all offering something unique and equally special. There’s a reason why Oliver is named Canada’s Wine Capital!
The Beginning Of Black Sage Butcher
The opportunity for Matt and Ravina to start their own butchery soon began to germinate. With Oliver’s overflowing abundance of culinary and wine tasting offerings coupled with Matt’s culinary experience and the fact that there were no other butcher shops south of Penticton, it just made sense.
It was clear the opportunity was there plus, for Matt, opening a butcher shop was a welcomed lifestyle change.
Matt explained, “It was part of the appeal for us moving here, me being in kitchens and coming up quickly on forty. You don’t meet a whole lot of chefs who are over forty.”
Ravina added, “It’s hard on your body physically and the hours are hard, lots of late nights.”
Black Sage Butcher Services & Meat Products
Matt and Ravina get all of their meat from BC, mostly from the coast, with very few exceptions. Their ultimate goal is to work with local farmers. They are already doing a bit of processing for farmers in the fall.
Their top-selling meat product is rib eye steaks. Barbecue season is coming!
All of their beef is AAA grade. Sausages, skewers, and bacon are also popular.
They process most of their meat in-house, including producing sausages and ground meat in-house, except for the high-quality bacon they get from their pork supplier.
Matt jokes, “I think if we took this bacon away there would be riots!”
Ravina smiled and added, “We’ve had customers say it’s the best in the world, so you know…”
Black Sage Butcher also brings in seasonal favourites like turkeys and hams. Plus they make their own marinades with fresh ingredients.
They also do freezer packs where people can purchase whole or large parts of an animal. For example, a quarter of beef or whole lamb.
A Butcher Shop Love Story
Spending time together inside a butcher shop is nothing new for Matt and Ravina. In fact, it’s how their own love story began.
Matt hinted, “I was working in a butcher shop in Ravina’s neighborhood. She was one of our customers.”
Ravina explained in one of her recent Instagram posts @blacksagebutcher:
“We got to know each other slowly during my regular shopping visits. The first time we had a substantive exchange is when I asked him what to look for in a steak.”
“Then, the day I found out I was approved for a volunteer experience in Africa, I invited Matt and his boss, Patrick, for a celebratory drink. Patrick declined (he knew Matt had a crush on me), so just the two of us went.”
“Matt will tell you that was our first date. I deny it but it didn’t take long for us to hang out before I knew I wanted us to be “official”. That was 7 years ago.”
“Little did we know then that our life would come full circle with us in love at a butcher shop once again.”
Growing Their Business
Even with the pandemic, Matt and Ravina have seen growth in their business.
Ravina said, “It has grown so much faster than we expected. We thought Matt would run it on his own and I’d be working elsewhere. We hired within a few weeks.”
Matt added, “In the summer, we saw a bigger draw. When we first opened, people in Oliver and Osoyoos would come and check us out. Then our regulars in the local area, and in summer we saw people come from further away. We had customers come from Naramata and Kelowna.”
People from Vancouver and Vancouver Island have even dropped in and stocked up their coolers before heading home.
Ravina expressed, “It’s a huge compliment if people are coming from major cities where they have choice.”
Adapting In Times Of Change
As with many small businesses around the world, the pandemic threw Black Sage Butcher for a loop. Regardless, they were able to regroup, develop solutions, and still see growth in their new business.
Matt explained, “Our shop wasn’t big enough to have a constant flow of people, so we shut our doors and sold meat through the front window. It’s kind of mind boggling how that was able to work. It’s a testament to Ravina’s marketing and organizational skills.”
Ravina added, “And a testament to the quality we provide because I don’t think that’s how most people want to shop.”
They also developed a pre-order and pick up model and eventually built a new store set up that allows customers to enter one way and exit another.
Oliver’s Thriving Food Scene
The food scene in Oliver is strong and growing with places like Backyard Farm, Miradoro Restaurant (Tinhorn Creek), Terrafina (Hester Creek), Sonora Room (Burrowing Owl), and The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry at NK’MIP Cellars.
Not only that, but with Oliver’s growing population, people are excited to pair their own food creations at home with the amazing wine at our fingertips.
Although Oliver has typically been a seasonal town, things are changing. Culinary and wine-tasting offerings exist here all year round. It’s something that Matt and Ravina want everyone to know.
Ravina continued, “More people are seeking out a more rural lifestyle. I think we’re going to see growth amongst a younger demographic and more people who appreciate food and quality. Clearly there’s an appetite for it with the success of Oliver Eats, ourselves at Black Sage Butcher, and Popolo Café.”
A Supportive Community Spirit
Oliver is a self-sustaining and abundant valley full of viticulturists, farmers, and entrepreneurs who want to see each other succeed. People trade farm fresh eggs and produce. They raise their own animals.
It also consists of 5,000 residents who care about supporting local, especially during challenging times.
Ravina explained, “It’s not just a tagline that you hear. Supporting local means supporting who you know and that’s very different than going to a random shop in the city.”
Matt and Ravina feel grateful for the support they’ve received from the community from day one.
Matt explained, “If we did this in Vancouver, nobody would have cared unless there was some big gimmick to get people in. You can put so much time, effort, and money into all those gimmicks and it can still fall flat. Here, we have an opportunity to do an honest food business, provide a good product, and build a customer base off of merit and no gimmicks.
Entrepreneurs Supporting One Another
The other special thing about Oliver that I’ve noticed myself is that local businesses band together and support one another.
For example, Black Sage Butcher purchases beer from Firehall Brewery to make their beer sausages. Firehall Brewery’s mandate is to stock only local beverages. For example, they do off-sales and serve Dubh Glas Distillery’s Noteworthy Gin, ciders including Howling Moon and Element, and a local wine (rotating it each month in summer). Popolo Café features wines from Fairview Cellars and other local wineries as well as beer from Firehall Brewery. It’s really a beautiful thing to see.
Matt explained, “There’s an understanding among the entrepreneurs here that sometimes you have a beer at the Firehall Brewery instead of picking up a pack of bud on the way home because you want to see him do well. Ultimately that’s going to help us as well. It’s a whole team effort.”
He continued, “It’s all contributing to creating jobs in my town so that we can have a small town. Otherwise, all those jobs go to the big cities or they go south of the border.
Get In Touch
Black Sage Butcher sells quality fresh meats including house-made sausages and custom cuts by a butcher with years of culinary expertise.
Choose from three service options including the service window and express menu, pre-order and pickup, or shop in-store.
Due to weight-based pricing, they only provide online ordering for occasional package offerings, but you can pre-order by phone or email.