High School Q&A: Stephen Tufts

Stephen Tufts is the young entrepreneur behind local company Dickie’s Ginger, which produces affordable ginger beer made with real ginger and lemon. What started as a complaint about the city's lack of decent ginger beer grew into an epicurean favourite, gracing The Globe and Mail’s recommended foodie gift list in December.

In anticipation of our upcoming High School issue (and in celebration of all things ginger), SAD Mag’s Nana Heed sat down with Tufts to talk life as an overachieving kid growing up in small town BC.

Stephen Tufts 

SAD Mag: Tell us where you’re from.

Stephen Tufts: I’m from Summerland, British Columbia, Canada—in the Okanagan. It’s right north of Penticton.

SM: What was it like growing up in Summerland?

ST: It was really pretty, staggeringly pretty. Just a lot of opportunities for play throughout every age group. My high school was well-rounded. I don’t think most places have as good of a public high school in terms of the programs. Summerland seemed to be the place where people that had success moved to and had a connection to a city and a bigger, broader life before they ended up there. Our family was not by any means wealthy...but I think the town of Summerland was.

SM: How do you look back on high school now?

ST: It was fine. I had an okay time. I think I always knew I was never going to have an attachment to it. My mind was always in the future. Not in a negative way, it was just always like ‘This is high school, this is now, it’s all kind of silly, it’s all really not that important’.

Stephen Tufts in Grade 11

SM: Do you find you’ve distanced yourself from who you were back in high school?

ST: When you asked me to do this, I did start thinking back on high school a little bit, and the thought that coalesced in my mind is that I never really had a group. I had a lot of different friend circles but it seemed like I was always the odd man out. It was interesting to see that I never really had a tribe—I like having a diversity of friends and experiences. Because everything’s interesting. There’s something cool in every different subculture. I was a really overachieving kid, as well. I was taken out of class for the gifted program and would go do logic puzzles because I wouldn’t shut up because I was bored all the time. I function well within paradox and plurality; I’ve always been that way.

SM: Say you have a hierarchy of all of the things that have happened in your life from birth until now. Where would you place high school on the spectrum?

ST: I had no pretense of having any nostalgia for it even while I was in it. I never looked at it as being this big, formative, huge thing that affects you. It just felt like I got older every year and things changed. I think you have to have a really fucked up time in high school or have it be the best time of your life for it to resonate that way. For me it was neither. It wasn’t the best time of my life, it wasn’t the worst time of my life, it was just a time in my life.  

SM: Why is there such a [social] narrative about high school?  Why make it such a big deal?

ST: I don’t know. I guess when I see a movie about high school I see it more about a time in your life and less about the institution of high school. Maybe that’s avoiding the answer, but I think high school doesn’t matter. It’s that you’re fifteen. That’s what matters.


Dickie’s Ginger is sold in retail stores and restaurants across Vancouver and at local farmer’s markets. Find out more at dickiesginger.com or follow Stephen Tufts on Instagram and Twitter at @dickiesginger.

SAD Mag is launching our High School edition on February 13 at the Remington Gallery. Join us for an evening of nostalgic school dance fun (minus the crying in the bathroom), magazines, music, drag, drinks, snacks, and more. Event details here