For 26 years, Tracy Gray has been working in an industry that began for her as a summer job.
Gray has owned Discover Wines for the past 13 years, and prior to that sold and marketed B.C. artisan wine, beer, food products and gifts. She has worked for 10 wineries, two microbreweries and had her own marketing company prior to opening Discover Wines, which is a store that sells only B.C.-made wines and food products.
“I have always been passionate about supporting local products, and it’s evolved into being aware of what’s going on in our local community,” she said. “There are so many amazing people out there quietly achieving amazing things.”
Gray explained it was an industry she never thought she would be spending much time in.
“I started as a tour guide at Mission Hill, I had just turned 19,” she recalled. “I had just started as a tour guide and it was going to be a quick summer job. Then it evolved to working my way up and working for breweries. Being really interested in local products, I was one of the first people to sell local wine soap that was made here, and wine jelly when there weren’t many companies making those types of products. I’ve always been a very strong advocate for locally grown products, locally made, local artwork, anything that we can do to support local artisans.”
Discover Wines has a very large gift basket component to its sales, and Gray stated that is entirely because of the great local artisans in B.C. Being in a position where she is constantly working with many different businesses has enabled her to sometimes help small local companies, such as providing suggestions for how they can better package and label their products to improve sales, which in turn helps the local economy.
Gray isn’t limited to just helping small or new producers, but she also loves giving back to individuals in the business community. She often mentors other women in starting new businesses and gives guest lectures at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in the Business Management program. Gray said she loves the variation and day-to-day challenges of running Discover Wines, although she has gone through a few stressful situations.
“Discover Wines opened in 2003, just one month before the Okanagan Mountain Park fires,” she explained. “My family, along with one-third of Kelowna was evacuated, and the evacuation line was right at the store. I remember thinking that I was going to lose my home and new business all at once. It was amazing to see the community pull together and watch people open their houses to relatives, friends and strangers. It showed the strength of our community, and it’s one of the reasons that Kelowna is such a great place to live.”
Gray’s passion for her local community led to her election as a Kelowna city councillor in 2014, which also saw her appointed to the Regional District of Central Okanagan board.
“It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” she said of her decision to run for council. “I really enjoy board-level type work, I’ve done a fair amount of it. I’m really interested in giving back to the community. My husband and I have always been really interested in politics, on both sides of our family we have a lot of political life, so it’s something that we’re comfortable with. It’s something that had been on my mind for a while.”
Using both her business and role as a city councillor, Gray has been able to support many local organizations and help her community grow and flourish.
Crowe MacKay’s Women to Watch program is a weekly feature that profiles remarkable women in our community. This feature is a joint initiative between Crowe MacKay, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Kelowna Capital News.