Hammocks. Tents. Decor. Matching dinner set. This isn’t your everyday picnic with an old bedsheet and some out-of-shape pillows. This is a skilled set-up, and you are the guest.
During the pandemic, many of us flocked to parks holding individual charcuterie boxes, cold-cut sandwiches and books. Then came the wave of luxury outdoor dining complete with teepees, flower-filled vases on low tables, wicker baskets with matching cutlery and board games.
True North Picnics’ founder, Jon Cankat, was in San Francisco planning to propose to his girlfriend when he came across the concept of luxury picnics. Inspired, he brought the idea back to Edmonton where it was forgotten in the busyness of his work. But, in the summer of 2020, the business was launched after he was laid off.
“We just put the website up, we posted a few things on social media but nothing too serious,” says now-owner Alex Zorilla.
At time of writing, Zorilla was set to take full control of the company. Cankat was moving away and former co-owner Vasili Papadopoulos is no longer part of the company.
The three worked together at the Westin and the latter two had been planning a picnic company for a year before. Because the original owners were from Turkey and Greece respectively, the original setup featured a more Mediterranean, Boho-chic aesthetic with lighter colours, Turkish-style carpets and poufs. Last fall, True North added cozy tartan blankets and platters of smores.
“Our company is hoping to provide you with an experience,” Zorilla says, adding that many of the picnics are surprises for anniversaries, birthdays, first dates. True North is offering setups starting at $100, where you bring your own food, to the ultimate experience of $150 which includes a charcuterie platter and non-alcoholic cocktails.
Mandy Bhullar, who works full time at Sunlife Financial, launched A Picnic Affair in January, 2021, and battled the weather with indoor picnics (much more relaxed than a formal dinner with blankets and pillows) and car parades — where you sit at a decorated table and wave to your friends as they drive past your house.
Bhullar works with local vendors like Box’dYeg for charcuterie and chocolates by Drizzled by ME and Earthy Flavors. She also offers a variety of looks to choose from. Her more popular styles are A Boho Affair, with neutral tones and sandalwood fans, or A Floral Affair with a lot of pink.
“I have a lot of flexibility with my job so if there was an event I had to do in the daytime, I could definitely do it,” Bhullar says.
Both companies have permission from the city to set up picnics in public parks and offer setups in home gardens as well. With set up and take down taken care of, the only thing left to do is relax.
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This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Edify.