In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shari Scarpelli was looking for a way to help others get out of the house and enjoy life once again. That was the driving force behind starting the Great Lakes Luxury Picnic Co. “I had been following another company on the west coast and had seen some of their beautiful creations and I thought, coming out of COVID and the fact we live in our beautiful area here in Sarnia, it seemed to be the perfect time to launch something like that here,” Shari says.

The plan is simple. Those interested in enjoying a picnic can contact her through Facebook, Instagram, or by email and she will set up a lavish picnic in the location of the customer’s choice. “During the summer there was a lot at the beach because we have so many beautiful beaches here,” Shari says. “We also did a lot of backyards and parks. As long as I can get my equipment to the location, we can do it pretty much anywhere.” Customers work with Shari to settle on a theme and style, and Great Lakes Luxury Picnic Co. provides the blankets, pillows, table, and decor. “All of my picnics include gourmet cookies and charcuterie is an add-on that people can order. Or you can bring your own food because it’s a picnic and lots of people have their dietary needs these days.”Shari has been thrilled by the response to her business, though she chuckles when she talks about the first picnic she arranged. “It was held at one of the wetlands in Leamington. Not knowing the area at all, I wound up at the wrong location. It was quite a learning experience and I knew after that I really needed to know my locations, so I mostly stick in the Sarnia-Lambton area now.”

Thus far, operating Great Lakes Luxury Picnic Co. is a part-time adventure for Shari who also works at an outpatient clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospice, a resource centre for the terminally ill and their families. “We follow people for end-of-life care. I have also been involved in the Hospice Gala for a number of years working the silent and live auctions.”Shari says many of the picnics she arranges are done as surprises. “I wait at the picnic site because I want to make sure their spot is safe for them and that everything is ready to go,” Shari says. “When they show up with whomever they are surprising, the look on that person’s face is a real joy. I have found over the years that you can buy somebody a present, but what people are really looking for now are experiences. At the end of the day, what do you have? You have your memories. Why not go out and make some beautiful ones.” Shari, who is 49, has done weddings, engagements, baby showers, anniversaries, and birthdays. Sunset picnics in summer were also a huge hit. With winter arriving, she is doing many indoor birthday parties and sleepovers for children. “It has turned out to be more fun than I had imagined. It has allowed me to tap into my creative side.”