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Socialē: Where great food, community and breathtaking landscapes converge


Proprietors: Tyler & Nicole Gable | Groupex member since: before 2007 | Penticton, British Columbia

When Tyler & Nicole Gable received notice that townhomes were going to replace the stretch of land where their old restaurant, Villa Rosa Ristorante, had stood for more than 26 years, they decided that they better have a plan in place. “We owned and operated Villa Rosa for 16 of the 26 years it was in business,” Tyler says. “We live in Penticton, we’re part of the community and understand how seasonality affects business. We saw an opportunity for a new place that was related to what people like (Villa Rosa), but in a different way.”

That’s where Sociale Enoteca came in. “Socialē is Italian for ‘social’ and that’s what we want this place to be, a place where people can meet, drink, eat and be together.”

Tyler Gable has been in the restaurant industry for more than 25 years and started as many young people do, working at a restaurant because it’s a job, not necessarily a career. But as he progressed from the kitchen to server to manager, he knew there was a way to convert his passion for the industry into a full-time career. “I’ve ran other people’s restaurants and was able to take the good and learn from the bad and adapt it when we took over Villa Rosa,” says Gable.

Originally from Alberta, Gable and his now wife Nicole, attended the town’s famous Peach Festival in 2005 and knew this was a place where they could make a home. “Nicole visited Penticton when she was younger and had great memories of the place. So, when we visited, we thought about life in the Okanagan. A place where we could be our own boss, buy a house and raise a family. And that’s what we did!”

The couple eventually came across Villa Rosa Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in its tenth year of operation. While it wasn’t officially for sale, they made an offer which was eventually accepted and they began a new life as restauranteurs in the Okanagan. For 16 years, Villa Rosa was, as Penticton now notes, “one of Penticton’s favourite restaurants.”

When the Gable’s were served notice that the land was going to be developed, they switched gears and founded Socialē Enoteca. “Sociale was purpose-built,” notes Gable. “We completely renovated a 1960s motel’s lakefront into a full-service café, restaurant and bar. We created what was missing on Lakeshore.”

“We have Caffé al Socialē by day, which serves coffee, drinks, sandwiches and desserts. Then, it converts into Socialē Enoteca by night, where we serve an Italian-inspired tapas menu,” says Gable. “We have a smaller kitchen, so by designing a tapas menu we can continue to bring out smaller, freshly made dishes in a more timely fashion. We wanted to create a vibe of shareable and social.”

The South Okanagan takes full advantage of the social nature of the menu and vibe of the restaurant. “We built a long bar top, along the water, that people can sit at and socialize, with a patio that has a gorgeous view of Okanagan Lake.”

Penticton is a popular summer destination, not just for the mountain biking, rock climbing and kayaking, but as one of the largest hubs for the wine industry. The South Okanagan is home to over 200 wineries, with the town located in the heart of wine region. According to Visit Penticton, the Okanagan Valley produces more than 75 grape varietals and there are close to 80 wineries within a 20-minute drive of Penticton. With a further 30-minute drive south, the town of Oliver is touted as the “Wine Capital of Canada,” with the highest concentration of wineries than anywhere in Canada. With Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south, the summers are a busy time in the town.

“From about mid-June until Labour Day, we increase our core staff from 20 staff members to 60, because of the influx of tourists,” remarks Gable.

This past summer brought a new set of challenges. With forest fires in Kelowna and a rockslide closing the main highway into Penticton, the usually busy season was the opposite. “The travel ban with the forest fires was difficult, mainly because our area wasn’t affected by the fires. Tourism was decimated this summer and so many businesses suffered. Especially after COVID-19 where so many restaurants and businesses didn’t make it through, this summer was rough. And now, Penticton is seasonally quiet.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Gable looks for and sees opportunities outside of the traditional restaurant box. Looking at all the great artisans and wineries in his community, Gable offers Socialē Enoteca as an event space. “In December, a local artisan hosted a candle making workshop which sold out the first time we hosted it. We just had kids visit to build gingerbread houses and it was a hit. Throughout the colder months we’re hosting a series of Winemaster Events. Guests enjoy a five-course meal that’s perfectly paired with a different local BC winery every two weeks all winter long,” remarks Gable.

“We know it’s important for us to be exposed to different demographics in Penticton, and by bringing in these wineries and artisans, we’re hoping that people who may not have visited us before, will visit us again.”

With years of experience running restaurants, Gable sees the value in partnering not just with local producers, but also with larger companies to stay competitive. “My produce comes from a local farmer who drives an old farm-truck with over 800,000 kilometres on it,” laughs Gable. “There are good quality ingredients within a 15-minute drive of Sociale, who we support and therefore we also support the local economy.”

But Gable notes, “There are products that aren’t locally produced that we use daily and that’s where Groupex provides me with competitive pricing. They give little guys an edge on the major chain restaurants.”  As a Groupex member of over 16 years, Gable sees the benefits, “We have access to products that we would not have used if we weren’t able to use Groupex’s preferred rates.”

He continues, “I was opening my monthly Groupex rebate cheque and with it, you also receive a ‘What’s new’ insert. One of the products I found was a non-alcoholic vermouth. I know there is a trend toward upscale non-alcoholic cocktails so seeing this made me think about what could be good for Sociale.”

“The customer service is great and they’re easy to work with. If you don’t have Groupex, you’re at a disadvantage compared to your competitor.”

Established in 1984 by a small group of independent restaurants, today, Groupex is the largest foodservice account in Canada with some of the leading branded suppliers such as Pepsico, Diversey, Canada Bread and Gordon Food Service. Groupex uses the buying power of its national membership base to negotiate savings on essential restaurant supplies and services. Members save thousands of dollars on beverages, food, operational and financial programs.

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