Off the Menu, Out of the Box
by Jennifer Mogensen
How Amy McCarthy, single mother of four, launched a successful and expanding restaurant business
Amy McCarthy, sole proprietor of Current Catering Hospitality Group, is a creative force of nature.
The Canadian-born McCarthy always knew that she wanted to be an entrepreneur but wasn’t quite sure what it was she wanted to do. Born in Ridgway, Ontario, she hails from a family of five. Her father was born in Holland and her mother in the United States. She never intended on living in the US, but like many transplanted Buffalonians, once she got here she found a welcoming home and has resided in the city since 1988.
Attending college in both Canada (Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario) and the US (SUNY at Buffalo), her studies ranged from retail sales to English. But her future would take her in a different direction entirely.
Her first step into the food world began at a young age. As a teenager she worked at Mae’s Place Diner in Stevensville, Ontario. The job was a difficult one, as the diner made everything from scratch, and McCarthy was the cook, waitress, and dishwasher for the small mom-and-pop establishment. She put in so many hours and such hard labor that her knuckles literally bled. She credits her ability to multitask to the four years she spent working at Mae’s, but the diner taught her more than that.
“I learned early the importance of quality and authenticity,” says McCarthy. “It also taught me about commitment to a job.”
After moving to Buffalo, she worked at several local businesses and eventually landed a restaurant gig at the now defunct Just Pasta. She waited tables at the high-end eatery for nearly a decade. She quit the job when her first child was born.
Not one to sit idle for long, she began a small custom drapery business that she ran from her home while raising her four children. Once her brood was off to school, she prepped herself to jump into the cuisine scene again, but this time she was ready to take herself to another level. “I knew that when I re-entered the workforce full time that it would be for myself,” she says.
She felt strongly that she could fill a niche in the Elmwood Village. She originally planned on opening a small gourmet food shop but the idea began to grow when she met a woman with whom she eventually partnered. “My concept exploded into what became the Globe Market,” McCarthy says.
In 2003, the Globe Market (762 Elmwood Avenue) opened its doors and offered the village fresh food and superior victuals and cooking products. Their success was immediate and their partnership lasted for five years. The partners eventually began to differ on their ideas about the business’s growth and McCarthy sold her half of the business. She was ready to move in a different direction.
The ever-creative McCarthy began to think of other business models in which she could obtain the success she had enjoyed at Globe while incorporating her personal vision of the perfect workplace. In November 2008 she decided to open a catering company, and Current Catering was born.
She started by serving small social events but quickly grew to take on larger projects. In the spring of 2009 she put in a bid with the Buffalo Olmstead Parks Conservancy to take over the food service in historic Delaware Park. It is no surprise that her plan was preferred over others. She opened the Lunch Box in two separate locations in the park: the kiosk and the lodge. “The guiding philosophy behind the Lunch Box is simple; integrity of ingredients, sustainability, and great customer service,” she says.
The Lunch Box gave McCarthy increased potential to expand, and expand is what she did. In the summer of 2009, shortly after opening her eateries, Matt Wolfe approached her regarding a third Lunch Box location. Wolfe is a member of the family that owns the TriMain Center (2495 Main Street) and the family was looking to provide their tenants with better food offerings. McCarthy was ready to take on the challenge.
“I really enjoy the fast pace, problem-solving, customer service, multitasking nature [of the food business],” she says.
Construction of the new eating area at TriMain began in January 2010, and she began service at her Lunch Box location that spring. At the same time, she took her two companies and incorporated them under the name of Current Catering Hospitality Group.
In the last year her company took on the position of preferred vendor at both the Darwin Martin House and the Marcy Casino. She is also poised to open a fourth Lunch Box in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Innovation Center (640 Ellicott Street).
McCarthy’s success has been well deserved. The single mother of four children has developed a work environment conducive to great customer service, incredibly fresh food, and happy employees. “I believe in creating strong leadership and a good company culture,” she says.
She confesses that her true passion lies in corporate catering and she is ready to take Current Catering into the workplace. In addition to entering that element, McCarthy has a few other ideas up her sleeve.
Her vision, menu and food philosophies can be found at currentcateringbuffalo.com.
Home Sweet Home
Delish Cooking School & Pastry Shop, previously located at 802 Elmwood Avenue, has found a new home in Black Rock.
Combining two storefronts on Amherst Street (414 and 416) will allow Delish the expansion they have been craving.
Debbie Clark, owner of the popular bakery, is excited about her new digs. “I chose the area because of the active and vibrant community involvement and because of the area’s strong potential,” Clark says.
Delish will be in good company among neighbors such as Spar’s European Sausage (405 Amherst Street) and Mark Goldman’s new Black Rock Kitchen and Bar (491 Amherst Street).
The 414 storefront boasts beautiful windows and enough square footage to allow Clark to quadruple her retail space. The additional room will also be used as a café-style seating area offering a variety of coffee drinks to complement her tasty treats.
The second storefront at 416 will be the location for her popular cooking school. A walk-through will combine the two separate spaces that Clark is creating during the construction period. The amount of work the buildings require is significant but Clark looks forward to opening in mid-July with a sweet grand opening party.
To keep up with Clark’s progress and score an invite to Delish’s delicious opening, join her Facebook page, Delish Cooking School & Pastry Shop, or visit her website at www.delishelmwood.com.
Pretty In Pink
Bridget O’Malley, assistant manager at Gates Circle Liquor and Wines (1430 Delaware Avenue), is continuing her quest to educate thirsty Buffalonians on the intricacies of wine.
Her mission this June is to show the wine drinkers of our region that just because a wine is pink doesn’t mean it’s sweet. On June 11 O’Malley will conduct a class on rosé wines that will prove, once and for all, that not all blushes are created equal.
If pink isn’t your color, bubbles can make anyone happy. On June 25 the class will focus on sparkling wines. Both wines are apropos to a sunny Buffalo summer and pair well with everything from hot dogs to lobster salad.
Gates Circle has created quite a neat little space to hold wine seminars and bring the grapes of the world to their customers. The free wine classes start at noon on Saturdays, and most classes offer samplings of up to five different wines per class. They last approximately an hour and require no prior signup.
Next time you find yourself lounging around on a Saturday afternoon, feeling a bit parched, pop in; they will be popping bottles.
More information on upcoming classes can be found at www.gatescircleliquor.com.blog comments powered by Disqus
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