Saskatchewan·Future 40

'We're really busy': Past CBC Future 40 winners' Harvest Eatery thriving thanks to Sask. support

Kristy Thienes, a 2018 CBC Future 40 winner, credits local support for the success of her Shaunavon "table-to-farm" restaurant through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kristy and Garrett Thienes have made Harvest Eatery a dining destination in rural Sask.

Kristy Thienes is a 2018 CBC Future 40 winner. The co-owner of Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon, Sask., is expecting a baby this month. (Christ Attrell Photography)

Kristy Thienes has noticed a change in her customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diners are relaxed, they're engaged and no one seems to be in a rush to go anywhere.

"People are coming out and truly enjoying each other," said Thienes, co-owner of Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon, Sask.

"People are making a point to put their phones away. To not rush through a meal."

Thienes said the noticeable shift followed the closure and reopening of the restaurant, due to COVID-19.

The 2018 CBC Future 40 winner and her husband have rolled with the punches throughout the past nine months.

They had to turn their destination dining establishment, with a staff of 13, into a small three-person team. That team became an assembly line for a food-delivery service that brought homemade meals to people in Shaunavon, Eastend, Climax and Swift Current when the pandemic began.

Kristy Thienes's husband, Garrett, right, poses with a local honey producer. (Harvest Eatery/Facebook)

Thienes's husband, Harvest Eatery co-owner Garrett Thienes (also known as Chef Rusty, and himself a past Future 40 winner), personally delivered the "gourmet comfort food" for each order. 

"It was insane," Kristy Thienes said. 

Although the months of morphing their beloved culinary hotspot into a mobile food delivery business were difficult, she said the support of local people helped them get through.

"We were so filled with love over how much support we received from everybody," she said, laughing as she fought back tears. "It was really heartwarming."

Building community through creativity

The popular adage "you get what you give" seems to apply perfectly to the Thienes' situation. About seven and a half years ago, the couple moved back to Garrett's hometown of Shaunavon, with a dream of flipping the growing farm-to-table trend on its head.

They'd bring the table to the farm.

Thienes said they knew there were "incredible ranchers, farmers, producers and artists" in the area and they saw an opportunity to partner with these producers to create something original.

Harvest Eatery was featured in Jenn Sharp's book Flat Out Delicious. The book has been turned into a TV series (set to air in 2021) and the crew came to film an episode at the restaurant in Shaunavon this summer. (Harvest Eatery/Facebook)

Today, the space is a bustling hub of community connection and small-business synergy. 

The restaurant's walls serve as free gallery space for local artists, and the Thieneses don't ask for commission. They simply want to make it easier for other creators to continue with their craft, as they have.

Everything served is made from scratch with local ingredients, and always prepared with a key ingredient — a mindset of sharing and transparency.

Up until recently, visitors could walk up to the chef and start a conversation, thanks to the restaurant's open kitchen and bar. Now, due to health regulations, antique windows serve as stylish barriers. 

A delicious snapshot of a meal. Harvest uses local ingredients from Saskatchewan producers to create its menu. The restaurant was awarded Tourism Saskatchewan's Service Excellence Award in 2019. (Harvest Eatery/Facebook)

But the approach remains the same. It originates from Kristy Thienes's desire to connect to real people, through creative content. In the beginning, she used a Blackberry to capture photos of what was cooking, every day, and would share the photos on Harvest Eatery's fledgling social media accounts.

"We were able to show what our food looked like and then explain what it tasted like," she said. 

In those early days, Thienes said she'd tag other associated companies in her posts, hoping they'd share her message and spread the news about the restaurant. Today, Harvest's vibrant social media presence shines a light on both the culinary excellence and the community.

Thienes uses juicy snapshots like this to keep in touch with her community through social media. One of the benefits of running a business in a small town is that people are never too far away from an award-winning Harvest Burger. (Harvest Eatery/Facebook)

"Being in a small town, it's so valuable," said Thienes. "I think my record is three minutes between posting a picture and someone walking in the door and saying, 'I just saw your burger. I want one.'" 

Now, things like that happen all the time. In turn, Thienes is using the power of Harvest Eatery's social media to bolster other young entrepreneurs, tagging producers the restaurant works with on a regular basis — like the South West Growing Cooperative, run by three teen boys who provide the restaurant with honey and vegetables.

"Social media has been invaluable and it's one thing I will tell every business owner to take advantage of," she said.

A bright, albeit uncertain, future

Thienes says thanks to Harvest's design, there's always been lots of room between individual tables and this has allowed for an easier transition back to dining in. 

"We're busy. We're really busy," she said.

Thienes uses Harvest Eatery's social media platforms to promote the work of local producers alongside the restaurant's. (Harvest Eatery/Facebook)

The restaurant is once again up and running, with all of its staff hired back, and is busier than it was last year at this time, Thienes said.

"Everyone is so jovial to be out again," she said.

As she looks forward to the future, Thienes sees more creative partnerships in her community, blending culinary, performing and visual arts once again. 

Thienes uses her background in graphic design and marketing to grow interest in both her restaurant and the town of Shaunavon. (Chris Attrell Photography)

For now, the restaurant's schedule is quickly filling up with reservations for private Christmas parties. It seats about 20 people, with the couple's currently closed Blind Boar Speakeasy serving as an extra space for more intimate gatherings.

On top of that, Thienes is expecting a child, with a due date of Nov. 23 — and she's also working part-time as communications director for the Town of Shaunavon.

When he's not creating new dishes, her husband had been building an off-leash dog park for the town. The work has just finished in time for winter walks.

While Thienes said she is not sure what the future holds when it comes to health restrictions due to the pandemic and time restrictions due to a new baby, she is certain that she and her husband will continue to serve the community of Shaunavon.

Garrett Thienes is a 2015 CBC Future 40 winner. He nominated Kristy for the award in 2018, and she was selected as one of the 40 winners. If you know someone amazing who deserves recognition for their work, nominate them today. (Submitted by Kristy Thienes)

In many ways, the restaurant's namesake has come to embody the life Thienes and her husband have built on the prairies.

"Harvest is everyone coming together and celebrating after all that hard work," she said. "That feeling of community, accomplishment, relaxation and enjoyment."

Do you know a hard-working entrepreneur who is making their community a better place? Nominate them to be a finalist in CBC's Future 40 —  celebrating the province's leaders, builders and change-makers under the age of 40.

Nominations close on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Kristy and Garrett Thienes own Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon. (Submitted by Kristy Thienes)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeline Kotzer

@MadelineKotzer

Madeline Kotzer is an award-winning Saskatchewan journalist and social media news editor/presenter for CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Saskatoon.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now