With over 34 years in the catering business, we spoke to Pamela, owner of local catering business Grace & Archie about how she got into the catering industry, the meaning behind the name and what the support
of the local community means to someone with a small business. With many different products on offer from afternoon teas, picnic hampers, classic home cooked dinners, cupcakes and week day lunches, contact Pamela at Grace & Archie to place your order for fresh and homemade meals, treats and gifts for loved ones.
Please tell the readers a bit about yourself, what services you offer and when you started your business?
My name is Pamela, and after being in the catering industry for over 34 years from the age of 13 in a local teashop in my home town of HenleyOn-Thames, working in both high street restaurants, bars and local businesses, I then decided to do it for myself from home. I had the idea a few years ago and wanted to set up my own café, but lack of finances meant I couldn’t so I decided to do it from home with the idea of more business catering functions. I devised a business plan so I could see my goals, but I put it on the back burner as I continued to work locally. I started to look at it again when the first lockdown happened and changed the plan to personal catering, dinners, birthdays, baby showers, small weddings etc. As the rules have been ever changing I have had to re model my ideas many times and I am now catering adhoc for lockdown birthdays, dinners etc. which I love. I aim to be eco-friendly and shop local when possible. I always try and reduce waste and limit my use on single use plastic which is why I use recyclable and/or biodegradable packaging at all times.
What is the story behind the name Grace & Archie?
The name Grace & Archie comes from my paternal grandparents, my granny worked in hospitality when she was younger. I always knew this was going to be the name when I first got the idea of opening my own business.
What does a standard day look like for you when cooking up orders?
Every day is different but on a standard day I would write a to do list and go shopping to prepare for my orders. I then spend the day cooking, boxing up the orders and then delivering when possible and awaiting collections.
With businesses being massively affected during the past few months, what struggles have you and your business gone through? For example, with getting stock etc?
At first getting stock was tricky as the shops were running out of ingredients like pasta, eggs and flour but I always managed to find some and had people on the lookout for me to grab stuff if they saw it!
Have you felt supported by the government during the past few months or would you have liked to see a bit more support for independent businesses?
I haven’t had any government support because I don’t meet any of the criteria. I do feel the government have supported businesses however I feel there should have been more support for newer businesses like myself that have slipped through the net and this has meant that some businesses haven’t succeeded.
It can’t be easy but what do you enjoy the most about having your own catering company?
I enjoy being my own boss and not having to cook or bake from a set menu, I really enjoy the ad-hoc way it has turned out, it means no two days are the same. I enjoy cooking for people and then hearing the positive feedback, it’s nice to know you have catered for someone’s event and that it has been enjoyed!
– What food do you enjoy making the most?
I like it when someone comes to me with an idea which means I can try new things and expand on their idea adding my own personal touch, but I also enjoy cooking meals for my regulars.
– Have you noticed a demand for specific requests such as dietary, allergies, vegetarian etc?
Yes, having a grown up daughter who has been vegetarian from a very young age and noticing within the industry the requests for gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian etc., I am familiar and happy to meet these needs. I have lots of celiac customers!
Are there any chefs/ bakers that inspire you?
I really love Rick Stein because his programmes are interesting, you learn about the food in the area he is travelling to as well as the local culture which is inspiring.
– What are your future plans for Grace and Archie? What can we look forward to?
As we’re now moving out of lockdown I am hoping the business along with the menu will grow with the chance to go back to my original business plan to work with local businesses and to also continue the personal side that I enjoy.
– It’s so easy for people to buy from a supermarket or large food chain, what does it mean to you when someone buys something from you?
It means a lot to me and the majority of my customers have been through word of mouth which has boosted my confidence. Since moving to Wallingford I have noticed how supportive the community is to local events and using the small businesses and it’s really nice to be a part of that.
It must be a challenging time to have your own business, what can Wallingford do to support you during this time?
Shop local, it’s so important to shop as local as possible if you can. It means so much to someone doing it alone. I have been lucky enough to meet new people and even become friends with some of my customers!
It would be great if people could continue to like and share my social media pages and consider ordering maybe a dinner or a cake instead of buying from the bigger supermarkets.