Spring brings rejuvenation throughout the Similkameen Valley and in 2021 a whole new leaf has budded at Tree To Me Inn in Keremeos ready for this summer.
Owner, Joe Wurz, who was born and raised on a tree fruit farm in Keremeos developed this 40-acre property situated beside Highway 3A as an ode to the region and provided fertile soil for fresh eyes to reimagine it to the next level.
Enter John Schmidt, Operations Manager, in 2020 with over two decades experience in consumer goods, grocery and natural food business. John held leadership roles with sophisticated brands such as Starbucks, Nature’s Fare and Choice’s Markets, developing hundreds of supplier and grower relationships as well as serving thousands of customers and mentoring hundreds of employees. As an award-winning merchandiser and seasoned operations and retail veteran, he could raise the bar for the organics farm and market store.
Destined to Make a Difference
John recognized immediately Tree To Me had much greater potential and urged his wife Leanne Pawluk to check out the property and have a conversation with the owner.
Leanne grew up in the hospitality industry as her parents conceived and ran Banff’s Rimrock Resort Hotel – one of the most prestigious boutique hotels in the Canadian Rockies—for over 30 years. Add to that primary experience her extensive background in business development, marketing, product development, branding and public relations in both the private and public sectors there was little doubt Leanne could reimagine the entire property.
Snapped up as General Manager, Leanne has set about to refresh every nook and cranny. The rooms have been renovated to provide a bright, comfortable and country chic base to explore the Okanagan/Similkameen region or to simply relax on the patios and take in the bucolic vista.
Thoughtfully decorated, rooms feature mountain views, kitchenettes, private bathrooms, flat screen televisions, air conditioning, blackout curtains, luxurious linens and complimentary toiletries.
Pippin market & bistro
Renamed Pippin Market & Bistro, the indoor and patio dining areas are bright and inviting. As you step into the room, you can almost smell the fragrance as if walking in a blossoming orchard thanks to a stunning orchard mural.
This expansive art installation was done by Oliver-based mural artist Larry Hunter as inspired by a painting of their Mother’s. Her brother Warren’s photography adorns the walls in guest suites. Outside, the décor features woodgrain tables with comfortable seating and gorgeous cedar planters bursting with flowers and greenery. Local artisans have crafted these stunning pieces and other unique pieces found throughout the property.
The organic gardens and orchards are undergoing tender revitalization and new plantings. Even as record heat domes have taxed the growth of living things, the grounds are showing beautifully.
To leverage all that love to ingredients and environment, Tree to Me has welcomed Brock Windsor as Executive Chef. He brings 32 years of culinary experience, 22 years of which was in management at a strong pedigree of food and beverage establishments.
He has left his mark on such notables as The Sooke Harbour House, Stone Soup Inn, The Brentwood Bay Lodge and Spa, Bearfoot Bistro, North Arm Farm, The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, and The Listel Hotel. Chef Brock is an award winner, graduated from the Stratford Chefs School, participated in James Beard House Canada Day Dinner 2015 and Slow Food Canada serving in leadership capacities in the Island Chefs Collaborative and Canadian Chefs Congress 2010.
The first lunch I enjoyed there was in the dining room where the air conditioning provided refuge from the heat dome. We had salmon salad featuring the local greens and Okanagan Select Salmon. My husband thought it was perhaps “the best salad ever” with its generous portions of salmon and exquisite dressing. Not licensed at this time, we selected from its extensive list of craft beverages – a Underground Kombucha and Bear ‘n Beaver Root Beer.
A Place to Celebrate
In a return engagement with a group, we convened on the shaded and scenic patio in celebration of a friend’s birthday. Mia ensured service was impeccable to match the delicious cuisine by Chef Brock and Sous Chef Nico.
Our group availed ourselves of the refreshing house made lemonades. The charcuterie boards were outstanding featuring Two Rivers and house made meats and mustards, sauces, nuts and pickles – made in-house and others by other artisan producers found in the on-site market.
Some savoured the tuna loin salad, while others had an asparagus soup and confit chicken leg with roast potatoes. We couldn’t resist sharing samples of our dishes between us. To cap it off, the birthday cake putting the spotlight on raspberries freshly picked outside was amazing with the perfect balance of sweet and sumptuous.
We toured the gardens and were fascinated by the innovation in planting techniques as we admired tree fruits, sunflowers, lavender, strawberries, raspberries and other crops. It’s exciting to hear the vision for the roadside gem.
Shop Local, Convenient and Delicious
John has made the market store absolutely irresistible with bright displays of local produce and an extensive array of artisan products, primarily produced in British Columbia. Then there’s the coolers of local cheeses, yogurts, Two Rivers Meats and in-house dishes that make it easy to take away and make or bake. Think soups such as asparagus, pea and beef barley, entrees such as lasagna and shepherd’s pie and desserts like pies or pie fillings ready for use like strawberry rhubarb.
You can even build your own picnic and enjoy in the orchard.
The new team has been out in the community to forge relationships with local farms, attractions, restaurants and wineries.
Inn-side Proximity and Tranquility
Next time I think I’ll heed Tree to Me Inn’s invitation to “Eat well. Sleep Over. Repeat.” We toured the rooms and could hardly resist curling up on the luxuriously bedecked beds and sofas. The decks provide expansive views of the valley and gardens. It would be the ideal setting to read a book if you could keep your eyes on the pages.
Word is Pippin’s proprietary coffee blend and signature soufflé pancake are swoon worthy! Pippin Bistro & Market is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays through Mondays (closed Tuesday and Wednesdays) for breakfast, lunch, or simply shopping for plentiful organic farm produce, breads, take-away meals, and locally sourced products.
To make reservations, verify current hours and learn more, see www.treetomeinn.com.