“When you first open a new store that’s never been in this area before, you kind of go ‘well, I hope this works!’ And then suddenly 10 years have gone by! It’s amazing.”

This from Bev Penner, owner of Prairie Oils & Vinegars in Steinbach – Manitoba’s very first oil and vinegar tasting room.

She felt that if she wanted a certain specialty boutique store in her own community, there might be others who would want the same thing. So, on November 28th, 2012, Penner took the leap.

“First and foremost, we’re a tasting room,” explains Penner. “That was the concept from the beginning – that people could actually sample our oils and vinegars here. It’s an experience.”

Most people don’t step into boutiques expecting to try before they buy, so Penner says this was initially a surprise to many.

“They expect to just buy a bottle off the shelf and that’s it. But then we give them a taste and their eyes light up – they're shocked at how good it tastes! It’s so much fun.”

Over the past 10 years, Prairie Oils & Vinegars has attracted a loyal following, and many people take joy in bringing friends and family into the store to taste for themselves. A large part of this success is due to the staff Penner chooses.

“My manager, Virginia ‘Ginny’ MacDonald, has been with me since day one. I wouldn't be where I am today without her.”

Penner continues to be surprised by her store’s success, and grateful for her customers. She and her staff truly enjoy every interaction.

“We wanted it to be very customer focused. It’s all about taking time with each person, chatting, asking how they plan to use the oil or vinegar they’re purchasing. We love getting to know them, and many become regulars. We know what they want as soon as they walk in the door!”

With November 28th coming up soon, how does a warm, friendly, small-town gourmet boutique celebrate a 10-year milestone? Penner says they’re keeping it simple.

“On Monday – which is our exact anniversary – we’re offering ten percent off everything in the whole store,” says Penner. “Plus, some of our local Manitoba suppliers have generously donated prizes. And our neighbour, Old Church Bakery, is making a few treats for us to serve, and they’re using our oils and vinegars in those recipes. So we're keeping it simple, while showing our appreciation for the support we’ve truly felt from people in this area.”

Penner says that 10 years ago, when she was working on opening the store, people would ask her why she chose to open her boutique in Steinbach.

“We told them it’s because we live in Steinbach. We make our home here. This is where we want to stay.”