FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Janice Beaton
April 23, 2013
I first met Janice Beaton about twelve years ago when her cheese shop supplied products for an event I was organizing. Since then I’ve often bought her cheese and introduced friends to her restaurant but never spent time in conversation to actually get to know this tour-de-force in Calgary’s food scene. It was about time!
Stories of founding Beano coffee shop, selling it, buying it back, and selling it again weave themselves among the establishment of Janice Beaton Fine Cheese, expansion, relocation amid re-thinking, re-sizing and renewal of concepts which begs questions of where it all began, and why, and how she got to there to here . . .
Her FARM restaurant isn’t just a clever way to have a 17th Avenue presence that connects to her 16th Avenue cheese shop – but clearly a smoothly managed combination of size, location and philosophy, and connected to a cheese shop!
That move to her current location 5 yrs ago at the same time she opened FARM (“timing wasn’t great – the economy, lots of learning ….”) and closing the Kensington store when the lease matured (“the rent was going to go through the roof – it didn’t make sense”).
I asked Janice Beaton where it all began. Raised on a farm, Mabou, west side of CapeBreton, science degree (majored in food and nutrition) at St. Francis Xavier University, headed west – food service businesses from the early 80’s, founded Beano with friends/investors in ’88.
There are clearly interesting men/partner stories in Janice’s history – not a mystery, but she’s private about those. I pried, of course, but agreed to not print them, because this article is not about fascinating men, it’s about a fascinating women – and she is!
… cheese is not an easy thing to do well. It is a fresh product. I spent a lot of time traveling in Europe, expanded my knowledge and fondness for cheese. I was explaining to friends that, what Calgary needed, was a really good cheese shop. Friends said, ‘Janice, you are one to do it’, and I did.
I asked Janice her outlook on business in the next 90 days?
… our focus is a day to day one of maintaining our edge, working with my management team – focusing on doing everything we do better, simpler and more effectively.
. . . and over the next 5 years?
… no particular plans to expand, or not to – never say never. Running food service businesses, labour and turnover are challenging factors. I believe the restaurant scene in Calgary will remain strong and vibrant. We are focused right now on more brand-integration, getting better at management of the businesses – systems, process, procedures, better analysis, better support systems.
Why do customers choose you?
… comfort food with a gourmet twist . .
… I just thought it would be a good idea – founded on the idea of small, comforting and comfortable - local sustainable food. Rooted in my thinking, my involvement in the slow food movement in Calgary.
Why focus on local, sustainable food?
. . . I grew up on a farm – we knew where our food came from. If it goes in me, it is important to be good, clean and fair food. For the restaurant it is difficult to buy everything local year round, but we try very hard to get it right.
What do you worry about, what keeps you up at night?
… I’m not a worrier.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life?
… where I am from (CapeBreton) and my family, sense of community – I have a great father (83) and an amazing mother (78)
You’ve built a clever pairing of businesses, what’s next for you – wine shop, more cheese stores, more restaurants?
… we will continue to do some wine/food pairing events in the restaurant, but no – not a wine store, there are lots of people who do that very well.
. . . I used to travel a lot for fun. Now I travel for love, for family – an off-grid cabin in the woods with my partner, or home to CapeBreton – I’m simplifying my life. I’m not my business – my life is much more than my business, I’ve been paring down, to simplify life. I am passionate and grateful.
What are you reading?
. . . I don’t read books so much – but I read a lot of poetry. Samantha Reynolds (Bent Lilly), Galway Kinneil. I’m a big Seth Godin fan.
. . . BMW X5 .. bought it used from a friend. Otherwise I wouldn’t buy that kind of car, but it was a really good deal, low mileage . . .
P.S. .. thanks Janice, for your time, and for that wedge of Avonlea White Cheddar from P.E.I. .. fabulous!
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