From Spanish Cider to Retail, Kelly Pisio from Pender Grocery Shares Her Journey
Kelly is one of those people that could do anything she wants and probably has. She's a professional photographer, a student of tourism, and an entrepreneur who asks "How hard can it be?". The answer is sometimes really hard but taking the jump from importing Spanish Ciders and Wines to Vancouver's latest retail gem Pender Grocery is only the latest leap.
You started in the wine industry, how did that come about and how did it evolve to include Pender Grocery?
About 6 years ago my husband, Shawn Pisio, and I visited our friend Michael Broadbent in San Sebastian. We ate and drank all the amazing food, wine, and ciders and fell in love. So much so that after some thinking and discussing, I quit my job in the tourism industry and decided to have a go at importing alcohol. "How hard can it be?!" Looking back...it was pretty hard! But we worked our way through and made it happen. The very first product we imported through Txotx Imports was a Basque Cider. This is an unsweet, naturally fermented and funky cider from Northern Spain that you typically drink alongside tapas (or pintxos).
Because our alcohol portfolio pairs well with food and was focused on the Basque Country, we kept getting questions about food from this region as well. So we added Spanish food to our portfolio but needed a place to showcase it.
My husband and I had always thought about having a storefront, so when Pender Grocery became available, we thought we'd go for it! "How hard can it be?!" This is quickly becoming our unofficial motto.
What's been the biggest learning curve that came with opening your own retail space?
Just like importing, it was a whole new industry we haven't had any experience in, so each day we learned something new. After working our way through all of the renovations ourselves, we quickly learned owning a physical space was going to be a lot more involved than anticipated! But, it's turning out to be a labor of love. We have a wonderful group of regular customers who keep us going and provide input on what products and local producers to carry. It's been fun sourcing the local products!
Having been an entrepreneur for a number of years now, can you tell us a bit about that journey and what you've learned about yourself and your career?
Since 2013 we've been slowly growing our import company, Txotx Imports. Starting out not knowing anyone in the industry, or having not having any idea how it all worked was definitely difficult, but I had a bright-eyed outlook on it! It helps that our portfolio is curated to include producers we know, trust, and that have the same vision as we do too. Believing in what your selling can be infectious!
I take each day as a new opportunity to get out there with our products. There's no 9am-5pm, no set weekends and no sick days. At the end of the day, it's for you and what you love so those long days are worth it in the end. Owning and running a small business has changed me in ways I didn't anticipate. I'm thankful for all the hard decisions and wrong decisions that have opened new doors and opportunities! Even if at the time I didn't recognize it. And cider. I'm thankful for cider.
What advice would you have for someone looking to open their own cafe or store?
Don't. Just kidding! If you're planning on opening your own store or cafe, don't get discouraged when a few, or a lot, of things go wrong. Take each issue as it comes and stay focused. Also, have fun with it! Your enthusiasm and passion will shine through to your customers.
What's next for you and Pender Grocery?
We're working on fine-tuning the shop right now. As for the future, we're keeping an open mind for opportunities as they present themselves. "How hard can it be!?"