Alison Tanzer’s perfect day in Sonoma is getting great food and wine from the shops in Sonoma Plaza, and sitting out in the park chatting with her friends. “I swear,” she laughs, “that was my answer before I had a picnic company, too. Ask my fiancé!” Happily, since October, Alison has been able to spend a lot of her time planning picnics – though mostly for other people – through her company, Picnic Potential. She’s been zipping all over the county, baskets and (ridiculously cute Boston Terriers) Cairo and Suki in tow.
Picnic Potential takes the hard work out of planning a special occasion. They’ve handled date nights, birthday parties, anniversaries – even the occasional wedding. You choose the venue, and Picnic Potential brings the blankets, cushions, and all of the other little things you need for a great day. For food you can either use Picnic Potential’s caterer, or just use your app of choice to get delivery from your favorite restaurant.
When your event is over, Picnic Potentials packs it all up and takes it away. Honestly, I’m relaxing a little just imagining it. Alison says that they always try to think of a little something extra to add to the booker’s requests – just to keep it special. A hot chocolate bar was such a hit this winter that it became a fixture at most events.
In some ways, Picnic Potential is an idea that was perfectly timed for our pandemic lifestyle. Your child can have six socially distant mini-picnics with friends as easily as one big one, for example, and picnics are outdoors by default. Alison says that the best thing about her work is telling people that they can celebrate their daughter’s 18th birthday or their 50th anniversary safely, and not feel like they’re missing yet another milestone.
Alison says that she’d planned to start taking reservations at the end of 2020, but an article in the Argus-Courier went live a few weeks before she was expecting. “It was a wonderful article,” she says, “but my phone just started ringing, and from that point on we were open.” Not that she’s complaining. She says it was like hearing your song on the radio for the first time (we assume that means exhilarating with a side of terror). Since then, it has been full speed ahead.
There have been tough lessons along the way. Alison almost breaks down (laughing – laughter is a constant when you’re talking with her) when she talks about a eucalyptus tree that “sneezed” sap all over a meticulously laid-out arrangement… moments before the food went out. Happily, Alison has a background in operations, so she had an extra set of gear in her truck. The moment was saved, but she shudders to think about what would have happened if the tree had sneezed a few minutes later.
Alison has big plans for Picnic Potential. In the short-term, pandemic safe slumber party kits are on the way (think matching sets of snacks and games delivered to multiple kids’ homes). In the longer-term, she envisions a collaboration with local restaurants and businesses – food and activities tailored to the spaces and places of Sonoma County.