Learning from Local Pioneers: Sustainable Business Tour

The TRANSFORM 1st Annual General Meeting came to a close with a full-day, insightful tour of local SME’s in Kitchener, Ontario. The tour provided a chance for attendees to see first-hand the various sustainability focused business models and ask questions to the owners themselves. 

First stop on the tour was at Together We’re Bitter (TWB). TWB is a multi-stakeholder owned co-operative craft brewery. While sipping on samples of their delicious craft beer, Alex Kinsella, one of the co-owners gave a tour of their operations. The unique decision-making structure of this brewery guides their growing success and connection to the local community.   

For the next stop on the tour, the group headed to Short Finger Brewing Company owned by Rob & Kat Hern. Short Finger is both a brewery and a homebrew shop. Local home brewers can shop for equipment, ingredients and learn through classes, competitions and the community that Short Finger has built around home brewing. Here, our group was able to fuel up for the rest of the day’s activities. Seated in the Short Finger taproom, we enjoyed great Short Finger beer samples, such as a Sour Saison made with Niagara plums. We also enjoyed a fantastic lunch from the Wooden Boat Food Company with delicious items such as dumplings, daikon fritters and vegan Bahn-Mi. Discussion on the brewery tour was focused on sourcing ingredients and working with what is available. This provided great insight to some of the barriers that small businesses face and how Short Finger has adapted.  

Next up: Wooden Boat Food Company, with Chef Thompson Tran (check out our post on his Practitioner Profile!). After having tasted the authentic Vietnamese food, the group was excited to learn about what sustainability means for this business, and in the local food scene more broadly. The Wooden Boat Food Company is a Vietnamese takeout kitchen, catering service and they also sell their house made sauces for home cooking. The team at Wooden Boat is always experimenting with how they can improve their sustainability by reducing waste and sourcing better ingredients. We learned about the inventive solutions that they have tested and how they are sharing what they have learned with other chefs/restaurant owners in the community.

The final stop before our dinner reservation was Full Circle Foods. This local grocery store has a large bulk food section, making it easier to shop sustainably – customers are encouraged to bring their own containers for refilling. Sam, one of the owners, shared with the group insights into the types of experimentation that Full Circle Foods has been testing to continue improving their sustainability.

Finally, we gathered for a reception dinner at Borealis Grille & Bar. Borealis is a restaurant dedicated to high-quality local food and sustainability. A historical building in the Waterloo Region, they are a certified B Corporation and work directly with local farmers to source ingredients as locally as possible. We were met with some beautiful cocktails at the bar and took a tour of the old schoolhouse turned restaurant. Our group learned about the deep historic roots that the building, and the sustainable efforts in the food industry, have taken in the Region. Followed with a delicious dinner, we reflected on the wide variations of approaches taken to sustainability in our Region, and closed the night with great food, and excellent company.

A BIG thank you to TWB, Short Finger Brewing, Wooden Boat Food Company, Full Circle Foods and Borealis Grille & Bar for giving an inside look and teaching us what you have learned about sustainability. Also, a special thank you to Chris Luderitz for all of his efforts in organizing this tour and creating a memorable day for all.



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