Western Living Magazine
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Native Shoes founder Scott Hawthorn throws the ultimate summer party at his amazingly offbeat Okanagan home.
There’s supposed to be a well-established pattern to snagging that coveted Okanagan second home. It starts by spending years in school, followed by decades grinding it out in business, with two weeks a year allotted to finding someplace in the Valley you might be amenable to spending more time in during your golden years. And once you find that space, you can start planning the construction of a massive behemoth of a getaway: a media room, a wine cellar, maybe even a boathouse where the grandkids can stay.
But surveying Scott Hawthorn, chilling on the minimalist deck jutting out from his unpretentious-to-a-fault weekend crash pad on a beautiful slice of the Naramata Bench, one thing is clear—he didn’t get the memo. Sure, he started out on the straight and narrow: did the school thing and then spent 10 years working at an investment bank in Japan.
And then things took an interesting turn. He returned to the West Coast (born in Yellowknife, he grew up in mining towns throughout B.C. before ultimately landing in North Vancouver) and instead of setting up on a high-floor office on Howe Street and pumping mining stocks, he planted himself in the then-very transitional neighbourhood of Gastown. He bought and renovated a couple heritage buildings, and in so doing got involved with fellow Gastown devotee and noted restaurateur Sean Heather (the Irish Heather, Shebeen Whisk(e)y House), and the two opened the revolutionary restaurant Salt Tasting Room.
Salt’s Blood Alley location brought a cross-section of citizens to a part of town that few had ever visited with a radical menu that was limited to cheese and charcuterie plates. But it was the wine list, dominated by bottles from the still-nascent B.C. wine industry, that piqued Hawthorn’s interest in the Okanagan. (Or re-piqued, if you want to get technical about it, since his family camped up and down the Valley in his youth.) He began to travel there frequently, meeting with winery owners and hunting for wines for the list, and gradually the idea of a second home began to take root.
When he found this five-and-a-half acre heritage apple-pear-cherry farm perched high on the Naramata Bench, the first thing the real estate agent told him was that he’d want to demolish the dilapidated 1940s homestead to make room for a big new spread—but Hawthorn had zero interest in a McMansion with a view. Instead of turning the property into a glitzy retreat, he hearkened back to his childhood and the things he loved about the area in the first place: being outdoors, hanging out with friends, embracing the summer season.
Step one? The house stays. Hawthorn imagined the place as a communal spot where friends and family could come and go as they please during the summer. The farmhouse was gutted, but instead of tricking it out with a series of bedrooms, Hawthorn pared his vision down to the bare essentials: a functional, if minimalist, kitchen with workable Ikea cabinets; a sprawling wooden deck, perfect for socializing on; and a wood-fired sauna, a wood-fired hot tub and a wood-fired pizza oven, the troika of summer entertaining. Inside, there are technically no bedrooms—people can crash in the main room, but it’s more common to sleep under the stars on the deck or to pitch a tent in the orchard. Unconventional, but Hawthorn likes it that way. “There’s no hiding here,” he says. “No walled-off spaces means people are forced to engage with each other.”
In fact, the biggest improvement effort went into Pierre, the in-ground wine cellar/impromptu dining room that’s so named because its custom curled-up door handle makes it resemble an archetypal Frenchman. In many ways, it’s here where Hawthorn’s vision of the Okanagan takes root: it’s beautifully done without being fancy, it’s stocked with bottles from his well-regarded neighbours and, for his guests, it operates on the perfectly relaxed approach of take a bottle, buy a bottle.
Just make sure you enjoy yourself.
One of the most unique features of Hawthorn’s place are the new architectural additions that sit near the bottom of the property. Nicknamed “pods,” the wooden structures are the result of Hawthorn joining forces with acclaimed architect Michael Green and wood engineer Eric Karsh; the three of them created DBR (Design Build Research), an unconventional program teaching design and construction as agents of social change. One of the projects was DBR Wine, which saw students designing and constructing three small seasonal “Sommelier in Residence” cabins and also designing and creating outdoor showers for the property.
A year before buying the property, Hawthorn co-founded a small shoe company that would use foam-injected EVA technology to make a line of fun, affordable footwear. Almost immediately Native Shoes became a runaway hit, first creating and then dominating its own category of shoes.
The Vancouver office currently has about 45 employees, and when it’s time to go on a retreat the destination is often Hawthorn’s Naramata spread. “Everyone is invited,” says Hawthorn, but those expecting a formal series of presentations will be sorely disappointed.
The day starts at the famed Penticton Farmers Market. Everyone is split up into teams, given a small amount of cash and a pair of Natives to barter with, and expected to cobble together the ingredients for a dish. On their way back to the ranch, there are a few key detours. Stop one is neighbour Heidi Noble’s JoieFarm Winery for a tasting and the gathering of a few bottles for dinner, then another stop at Naramata newcomer Legend Distilling for more…uh…team building. Then it’s back to Hawthorn’s to set in on dinner. One team tackles a cheese plate sourced from local purveyors; another prepares a bruschetta with fresh Okanagan tomatoes; another crafts the perfect roast chicken and another, roasted fingerling potatoes to go with. Beers are opened, corks are popped and everyone just sort of hangs. An impromptu game of rotten apple baseball breaks out.
As the sun dips, the now-late dinner begins and a spot of inspiration hits Hawthorn. The al fresco table set is moved quickly inside Pierre, Hawthorn’s wine cellar that’s bored into the slope of the orchard. Candles are lit and dinner begins with a cheers around the table.
One of the reasons Hawthorn was drawn to the property was the mature cherry, apple and pear trees dotting the acreage. For the first few years, he dutifully harvested his apples and brought them to the local co-op, where he was offered a paltry nine cents a pound for them. In true Hawthorn fashion, he thought: there’s got to be a better way. He decided that, for that price, he’d rather donate them to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank—and thus began a relationship that now sees him giving away 70,000 pounds of apples a year at cost. The relationship worked so well that he’s now one of the food bank’s core suppliers. As for the other fruit, Hawthorn’s pears head up the street to help form the basis of perhaps the coolest cider in B.C.: the Naramata Cider Company (owned by Del and Miranda Halladay of Elephant Island Orchard Wines fame).