Black Sage Butcher relaunches itself on Oliver Main Street
Black Sage Butcher opens larger store on Oliver’s Main Street
Black Sage Butcher recently relaunched in a much larger location on Oliver’s Main Street, less than three years after its beginning.
Butcher Matt Leyes and his wife Ravina Johal started their business on Station Street in August 2019 after moving to Oliver from Vancouver. They opened in late May this year at the new location.
The original store, which they leased, was only about half the size of the new store, which they now own.
“We outgrew it the day we opened,” Johal says of the Station Street store. “We were able to purchase this building, so we’re investing in our future.”
Black Sage fills a niche for quality meats from ethically raised animals, free range and without growth hormones or antibiotics. Almost all the meat comes from British Columbia, much from the Fraser Valley, though occasionally some lamb comes from Alberta.
The business has developed a loyal customer base through word of mouth and social media, with some customers coming from as far as Vancouver Island and Kelowna.
The closest comparable business is in Penticton, said Johal. For customers buying meat in Osoyoos, Oliver and Okanagan Falls, the only alternatives are supermarkets or buying direct from farmers.
“If you’ve only ever bought meat at the supermarket, I would say give a butcher shop at try,” said Leyes. “If you’re concerned about price, talk to the butcher about cuts that can be comparable in price.”
He notes that meat counters in supermarkets are often loss leaders, whereas for butcher shops it’s the main product so butchers can’t afford to sell at a loss. Instead, they focus on quality and service such as custom cuts and culinary advice.
“The way we cut meat, we think about how it’s going to cook,” said Leyes. “What’s the end product going to be like? A raw steak isn’t the end product in our minds.”
Leyes has a culinary background, and he shares that expertise with customers.
“We’ve got lots of tricks up our sleeves as far as cooking is concerned,” he says.
Asked about their most popular products, they agree ribeye, a boneless steak from the rib section, is number one.
“That’s the steak that people know, but we’re often trying to encourage people to try different things,” said Johal.
One of their suggestions is flat iron steak, which she describes as the second most tender steak on a steer after tenderloin, with nice marbling, and great flavouring, but close to half the price.
Bacon and sausages are also popular, with the sausages made in-house without filler such as breadcrumbs. Often the sausages include local produce, such as peaches and basil.
Beef, pork, lamb, and chicken are the most common meats, but especially at holiday times, turkey is popular, and other meats such as duck, goose, ground venison, and bison steaks are sometimes available.
They’ve sourced local chicken from Covert Farms, and they look forward to connecting with more local farmers when they are able to grow their team.
Currently, they have just one regular employee, Tim Evans.
Perhaps appropriately, Leyes and Johal first met at a butcher shop in Vancouver where he was working, and she was a customer. Both are now in their 40s.
She had no prior experience with meat cutting, and she still leaves that to her husband, but she has a background in marketing and communications. She brings those skills as well as customer service, administration, and social media marketing to the business.
Johal was born and raised in Richmond but spent most of her adult life in Vancouver.
Leyes is originally from the small town of Exeter north of London, Ontario and he later lived elsewhere in southern Ontario. He moved to Vancouver about 15 years ago to develop his culinary career and find better weather.
Several years ago, the couple decided they were ready for a change from city life and after a visit to Oliver, they fell in love with it.
“We really enjoyed our time here,” said Johal. “I thought it was beautiful, and we saw a lot of opportunity. We loved the intersection of food and wine here, and we saw a gap in terms of a butcher shop.”
They also wanted a lifestyle change, and the money they got from selling their Vancouver apartment went much further in Oliver.
“We were just looking to have a different lifestyle and we were done with big city life,” Johal continued. “There are the natural surroundings here. We both like hiking. We did a lot of that in the Lower Mainland, and it’s been amazing doing that more here.”
“If you’re looking for a career in food or culinary, you’re at the source of it here,” said Leyes. “The wines are here, amazing produce, and it’s right here.”
In the relatively short time they’ve been in Oliver, they’ve built a circle of friends and met other couples who own food businesses.
“We’re built friendships and working relationships,” said Johal. “It’s been fun to collaborate with them, but also commiserate with them and to support one another. There is a real sense of community here that I think would be really hard to find in a bigger city.”
Leyes and Johal are especially happy to be now located on Main Street.
“We feel like there is some momentum here with new businesses popping up and taking pride in their shops,” said Johal. “I think it’s a great part of the town.”
“It’s such a pretty downtown area,” he said. “We’re excited to be here. We’ve always felt like we put out a nice quality product and now we have this really nice space to come and show it off.”
Story and photos by Richard McGuire
Black Sage Butcher
6234 Main Street
Oliver, BC V0H 1T0