Summerland Sweets: Fulfilling a legacy for now 60 years
A small little shop nestled deep within the orchards of Summerland has been turning local fruits into delicious treats for 60 years today.
Anybody driving to Summerland Sweets for the first time might be surprised that such a charming business could be located so far off the beaten path.
But even without visiting the quaint little shop, many are still familiar with the brand because of how popular the products are throughout the Okanagan's grocery stores, fruit stands, and shopping malls around Christmas time.
The business has remained family-run since it was established by F.E. Atkinson. He stepped away from operations in 1986 and passed away a few years later.
“It’s an amazing legacy he’s left to us,” Atkinson’s granddaughter Janet Braid said. She is the company’s retail and officer manager. “He had a lot of foresight in starting the business when he did – he was quite a visionary.”
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Summerland Sweets is well known for its jams, which have become a staple in Okanagan pantries. The business also uses local fruits to produce syrups, wines, and fruit leather.
And the family is staying true to Atkinson’s original vision, which is to empower fruit producers.
“He felt that the orchardist was always sort of left behind,” said Len Filek, who is married to another one of Atkinson’s granddaughters.
“They would have overripe fruit or really good fruit that can’t make it to market, so he wanted to make sure there was a way to get the most out of it.”
Atkinson originally created seven flavours of jams and that selection has been expanded to 25. His line of syrups have also been expanded while employing the same techniques.
“He has a very basic philosophy – pick tree or vine-ripened fruit so it ripens naturally,” Filek said. “When you bring it in, cook it really quick to maintain maximum natural flavour, and then cool your products really quick to maintain a natural colour.”
Filek said Atkinson spent his life dreaming up different ideas for fruit products.
“We’ve got file folders full of ideas and the stuff he envisioned.”
Their products are manufactured in Summerland and fruits are sourced as locally as possible, Filek said, adding that only rarely are they forced to purchase from outside of B.C.
Running a family jam business is not as easy as Summerland Sweets makes it look. The operations of the plant, as well as the logistics of marketing, all come with their own challenges. But one of the toughest aspects nowadays, Filek said, is finding qualified workers.
Fortunately there is a solid team of 16 year-round workers, and that number increases every year in the summertime.
The store continues to grow. It has expanded from 300 square feet to 2,500, and also sells gifts and treats from other producers around the Okanagan and Southern B.C. This summer will be the first year of the Summerland Smoke Shack, which is a food truck that operates on site from Thursday to Sunday.
Many hungry customers will have a chance to try out the new food truck today, June 18, during the official celebration of Summerland Sweets’ 60th anniversary. A free pancake breakfast is on from 8 a.m. to noon at 6206 Canyon View Rd. Those who wish to attend are asked to help cut down on waste by bringing their own plates and utensils.
“I never really thought of the significance of it because we always get caught up in the day-to-day,” Filek said. “But wow, 60 years, it is an accomplishment. We take it for granted but it’s just that we love what we do.”
And the 60th anniversary isn't the only exciting thing happening in Filek's life this week – he also won $10,000 by sinking a hole-in-one at a charity golf tournament.
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