You can’t be everything to everyone, especially in retail. But at Cindy’s Home & Garden, they come pretty close.
“You can’t do everything,” laughs co-owner Jason Martin. “But we do have a little bit of everything…something for everyone.”
What began as a small greenhouse on Seacliff Drive in Kingsville has blossomed into a destination shopping experience featuring a 12,000 square foot gift shop, fashion boutique, and gourmet shop complemented by an active seasonal garden centre.
Over the past several years, Jason and his wife Tish have continuously expanded the popular Kingsville business, which was established by his uncle Ken and late wife Cindy in 1989. After Cindy’s passing in 1997, the business was carried on by Ken and his second wife Christine, with Jason and Tish coming on as partners in 2016. The couple assumed full-time ownership in 2019.
“Then 2020 hit,” laughs Jason.
“When Covid started, we had to flip our business model a little and scramble to figure things out like everyone else did,” recalls Tish.
Even amid the pandemic restrictions, the pair was able to adapt; shifting to curbside pickup, offering virtual shopping appointments, and delivering purchases to people who weren’t able to leave their homes.
The team also turned to social media to engage with their customers, with Tish hosting two-hour shows each week for the 30,000+ members of the Cindy’s Customer Club Facebook Group. The live streams featured Tish showcasing the store’s latest merchandise while customers called in or messaged to purchase items.
“It was pretty awesome,” says Tish. “We had thousands of views and people messaging in during the shows. We did giveaways. We had a lot of fun.”
“There were people who were literally locked in their homes that would contact us and say, ‘oh my god, this saved me,’” recalls Jason. “We got so many comments from people saying how much they looked forward to those live shows and it became their ‘thing.’ They got their wine and cheese and watched every Thursday.”
The “Live with Tish” shows were so well received they garnered multiple accolades, including Tourism Windsor-Essex’s “Best Live Show” and the prestigious “Innovation Award” from The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. That is on top of their Best of Windsor-Essex Awards’ “Best Boutique Shop,” which they’ve won three years in a row.
“Through lockdown you really had to think outside the box,” says Tish. “People’s lives never stopped, even with things shut down. There were still birthdays, anniversaries, memorials. People still needed to shop for those occasions.”
Despite the pandemic’s many challenges, the couple was able to add other new endeavors to their already expansive offering. In spring of 2020, they opened a food truck on the property: T-Jay’z Cookery. The food truck, open from April to October, features food truck favourites, as well as elevated fare including a watermelon salad, fish tacos made with local perch, and unique creations like a coney dog poutine.
“My cousin is a chef and he helped us set up a menu so that it would be more than just your standard burgers and fries,” says Jason. “We really wanted to focus on high-end quality and menu items you wouldn’t expect, but that could still be made in a food truck.”
The pair is proud to source most of the food truck’s products from local suppliers, including right from their own storefront. Many of the dishes are made with olive oils, vinegars, and spices from their own gourmet food selection, located in Cindy’s Too; a whimsical country store found on the property.
Cindy’s Too is home to an ice cream shop, café, gourmet food department, and Cindy’s Olive Oil Company; Essex County’s premier olive oil and balsamic tasting bar featuring over 65 premium flavours of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
“When we came on as owners, that was something we brought in that we thought was really unique to the area,” says Tish, who traveled to San Francisco in 2018 to become a certified olive oil sommelier.
“I wanted to be 100% fully knowledgeable about the olive oils so I went away for training because there are so many questions about our selection and I wanted to be able to answer them.”
Complimentary tastings of all the distinct oil and vinegar flavours are available in-store, but the selection can also be viewed and purchased online and shipped nationwide.
“We ship Canada-wide now. We have people come in from out of town and say to us, ‘we can’t find anything like this back home,” explains Tish, noting she’s had customers from as far as Italy fall in love with some of their unique products.
As in-person shopping has resumed and business returns to pre-Covid levels, Tish and Jason are once again looking to build on their selection of gourmet food items.
“I’m excited because we have about five or six new brands coming within the next month or so,” says Tish. “We’re trying to offer something nobody else does.”
“We have an expanded gourmet selection geared toward charcuterie boards and more,” says Jason, noting they already sell a variety of artisanal cheese. “It will really complement the oil and balsamic selection.”
‘Always offering something new’ is a common theme at Cindy’s and a goal the team strives to achieve in each of their departments.
“We always have full shelves,” says Jason, adding that the main store is bursting with a wide selection of home décor, gift ideas, memorial items, and baby and kids gift items.
Tish also ensures the clothing boutique is well stocked with the latest fashion trends from a variety of Canadian labels, as well as lines that can’t be found locally anywhere else.
“I shop a lot from Los Angeles; I like bringing in things that are different that no one else carries,” she shares. “That’s what our customers really like because when you come here, it’s new every time.”
That same sentiment is carried through to Cindy’s vast garden centre and greenhouse; home to a massive selection of tropical house plants, perennials, herbs, vegetables, hanging baskets, and patio pots, as well as statues, birdbaths, fountains, and patio furniture.
“Right now we’re gearing up for the season, doing all our planting and bringing in all the new décor,” says Jason.
In between planting and planning, the couple and their staff are also getting set to welcome back customers to their summer night markets, returning after a two year hiatus.
“Those are so much fun and draw big crowds,” says Jason, noting that in addition to the artisan vendors, food trucks, and live music the markets are known for, they’ll also be adding classic car shows for the first time.
For Tish and Jason, the return of such events brings an opportunity to reconnect with some familiar faces and welcome in new patrons who have yet to discover the unique customer experience Cindy’s has become known for.
“I love connecting personally with all of our customers. People know me and feel like I’m a friend and that alone keeps me going,” says Tish. “We’re so blessed to have an amazing staff as well. I say that there’s no other business that gives you the personal, helpful service that we do and it’s because of them.”
Cindy’s is located at 585 Seacliff Drive in Kingsville or visit them online at www.cindysgarden.com today.