Heather Ford: Maker of Kingston Experiences

By Lindy Mechefske

Heather Ford may just be the quintessential Kingstonian. Born and raised in Kingston, Heather was in the first cohort to graduate from Bayridge Secondary School. From there she went on to study at Queen’s University, graduating with a degree in economics before returning to work in her family’s long-term Kingston business.

In fact, Heather Ford has spent her whole life in Kingston. And, save for a couple of stints working elsewhere, including a student job working at Aunt Lucy’s Restaurant, she has always been involved in the family business – the Green Acres Inn at 2480 Princess Street.

“It’s a true family business,” she says. “I grew up there when it was a classic, wholesome 1950s motel. We all lived on site, including my grandmother, who lived upstairs.”

In 1998, Heather bought the family business and renovated the Green Acres Inn extensively, taking care to keep the character intact while giving a nod to the motel’s nostalgic past. Upgrades to the property including complete refurbishments and expanding guest services – adding amenities like in-room whirlpool tubs and offering high-quality continental breakfasts and aesthetic services through a partnership with Cher-Mere Day Spa. “I learned early on about taking care of guests, making things right, and the power of word of mouth,” she says. “And I am absolutely committed to making sure people have terrific Kingston experiences.”

When she isn’t on deck, running Green Acres, Heather is travelling the world, always with a mind to improving her own business. In 2015, she was at a tourism conference in Toronto when she heard a speaker from Chicago Food Planet who teaches people how to run food tours.

“I knew a food tour would be a great asset in Kingston and I promptly signed up to take a course in Chicago,” says Heather. “It was important to me to learn the ropes properly because even though I’d done food tours when I travelled, and I’d long made successful restaurant recommendations for visitors to Green Acres Inn, I wanted to launch a professional tour right from the get-go.”

In 2016, when Heather launched Kingston Food Tours, along with her son and business partner, Daniel Barrett, (other son, Laird, lives and works in England) the pair had done their homework. The tours were an immediate hit. Designed for both locals and visitors, the tours are carefully arranged to not only showcase downtown Kingston but also local food, Kingston’s impressive history and architecture, and the vibrant downtown restaurant and food scene.

Heather and Daniel started with the Classic Kingston food tour and quickly added a Beers & Bites tour. The two- and three-quarter hour Classic Kingston tour starts at the Kingston Tourist Information Centre and moves on through a well-planned downtown walking route, showcasing some of Kingston’s most popular restaurants, food stores, and bakeries including courses, cocktails, tastings, and samplings at Diane’s Fish Shack and Smokehouse, Pan Chancho, Tango Nuevo, Olivea, Atomica, the Kingston Olive Oil Company, and General Brock’s Commissary. Locals and people from all over the world, come together to eat and drink, make friends, and discover a taste of what Kingston has to offer.

What’s up next for Kingston Food Tours? Stay tuned, as Heather Ford, maker of Kingston experiences, looks to the possibility of a new Kingston International food tour designed to showcase the city’s rapidly expanding international food scene.