From simple to luxurious, this woman is upgrading the local picnic scene

·3 min read
Ceana Ussoletti, founder of Proper Picnics, experienced her first luxury picnic in New York City five years ago. Since then, she's been wanting to bring that moment to others. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Ceana Ussoletti, founder of Proper Picnics, experienced her first luxury picnic in New York City five years ago. Since then, she's been wanting to bring that moment to others. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Life in Windsor-Essex is no longer just a picnic — it can be a luxurious one.

Ceana Ussoletti is offering an elevated picnic experience through her business, Proper Picnics.

The outing curated by the 21-year-old entrepreneur combines the scenery of the region with locally sourced food and drink. Paper plates and checkered plastic tablecloths have been swapped for fine cutlery and linens.

"I just found a need for something exciting to do in Windsor-Essex and I had seen it blowing up in other places across Canada and even the States and I thought we needed something, especially during COVID," she said. "We don't really have anything like this [here]."

The business, which launched in March, is one of many across the province that offers such picnics, but it's one of a handful in Windsor-Essex. Proper Picnics is also just one example of a business born out of pandemic restrictions, tapping into demand for outdoor experiences following a year of isolation.

Since March, Ussoletti says she and her two employees have set up about 100 picnics across the region, from bachelorettes to birthdays and surprise proposals.

WATCH: Proper Picnics sets up their Boho Chic themed picnic

"Most people are just shocked and the reactions that we get are really great and it's also kind of funny. Definitely the surprise picnics are my favourite 'cause they're just not expecting it at all," she said.

"We had a surprise proposal and ... luckily I got to stick around and see what was happening and that's been really amazing."

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

As for why it's taken off, Ussoletti says COVID-19 has likely played a part, but also because it's "something [people] can't recreate themselves."

Similar companies have started up across the province, including a number in Toronto such as Picnics in the 6ix, which claims to be the first one to have brought luxury picnics to the city in May 2020.

Many people want it in their own backyard

Though clients can choose anywhere in the region to have their picnic, Ussoletti says she was surprised to find that 50 per cent of people want it in their own backyard.

Janice Pennington was one of them.

Two weeks ago, Pennington booked a picnic for her twin daughters' 28th birthday.

"My backyard is not nice and Ceana said not to worry about that," Pennington said.

"We are currently putting in a new deck, the backyard is sketchy at best right now, however once they came in and once they set up, it looked like a different backyard ... she transformed it."

Submitted by Katie Pennington
Submitted by Katie Pennington

Another perk of staying at home, she added, is bathrooms were close by and they didn't have to worry about COVID-19.

And if it's not the backyard, Ussoletti says people usually want to be near water, so anywhere along the LaSalle, Amherstburg or Windsor waterfronts have been popular. She's also partnered with some wineries to bring the experience into Essex County.

Price no object

But the luxury comes at a cost — one that depends on the number of people, amount of food or drink and time spent picnicking.

The experience can range from $200 to $900, with some events costing more than $1,000, according to Ussoletti.

"Luckily, price is no object for people that really want a memorable, luxury experience," she said.

As for why not a restaurant, Pennington said this was more "intimate."

"We could take pictures, we could talk, we laughed, we even got my husband involved at one point, it was just a very nice intimate experience that really you'd have lots of people around you in a restaurant, you didn't have that here it was like your own piece of paradise in your backyard," she said.

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