conThree months ago, the phone at Elegant Edibles in Jamestown, NY was ringing off the hook. Events being cancelled. Bookings for catered events throughout the upcoming summer cancelled or postponed.
Owner Vicki McGraw stated that her grandmother once told her this famous phrase: If there’s a will, there’s a way. “I’m the queen of that,” McGraw beamed through her face mask during a recent interview. As a self-proclaimed smiler and hugger, these times are difficult for Vicki, but when speaking about her small business there is a sense of pride that she cannot hide behind a face mask.
“If there’s a way, I can make it happen,” says Vicki. So be it. A few weeks back on May 1st she marked 20 years in business at Elegant Edibles in Jamestown, NY; a staple in our small business community. Unfortunately, her celebration was muted by the bizarre circumstances of the world that we currently live in.
Across Chautauqua County small businesses blanket our area and offer us the chance to support our friends and neighbors. As we see closures due to government-mandated shutdowns and other reasons related to the pandemic, our local small business leaders have been devastated.
For McGraw at Elegant Edibles the closures of numerous offices, companies and manufacturers, all of which represent a large portion of her business, mean no catering orders for events or food deliveries. Instead of feeding 50 to 100 people at business luncheons, she now is providing meals for five to 10 people per order.
Her long-time creation, “Elegant Edibles at Home” is a major highlight of her operation. This provides an ever-changing weekly menu of partially-prepared meals for ordering online (elegantediblescatering.com). You only have to spend minutes in the kitchen completing the cooking process and you get a fine homemade meal.
This week’s menu consists of classic options including shrimp alfredo, beef on weck, orange crumbed chicken, meaty lasagna, and among others, a hearty broccoli and ham chowder. All simple homemade options that only require you to pick up and toss into your oven or crock pot.
Located as a cornerstone on North Main and 18th Sts. in Jamestown for two decades, McGraw has never been faced with a challenge like this pandemic. “This is unprecedented. I’ve never experienced this. I’ve had to reinvent myself in the last three months,” she said.
Teaching herself to use social media channels to get her word out is a new tool that McGraw is embracing. Her delicious food options now displayed on Facebook are opening new avenues of marketing for her business.
“Diversification is the name of the game these days,” McGraw mentioned. She is confident that being open to custom orders and adapting to customer needs will allow success in this moment of uncertainty.
Another blow to her business came two weeks ago when Chautauqua Institution announced plans to not have a traditional nine-week season this summer. According to McGraw, “It’s nothing for me to be on the grounds three or four days per week for that nine-week period.” She has served at events across their campus and even at large amphitheater performances over the course of her 20 years.
With this news McGraw had to regroup and adapt once again. She currently is working on a fresh marketing campaign to reach those who will be residing at Chautauqua this summer to provide homemade meal options for them in a different manner.
Overcoming hurdles as a small business owner can be dizzying. During times like these they can be almost insurmountable.
While speaking with McGraw it was very clear what drives her to succeed. It is the love for her customer base and the passion behind her business. When she speaks of her clientele, she is so appreciative and admiring. “My regular customers have been phenomenal. They continue to support me as much as they can.” She understands how fortunate she has been over the past 20 years to have such a terrific customer base. Her customers are thought of as family. She has been serving them incredible prepared meals for two decades and truly cares about making meal options a breeze for everyone.
Recently she found joy in a friendly phone call where a colleague reached out to check in with her. “We need to check in on friends and neighbors and not assume that they are ok. Just because you are ok, don’t assume it’s the same for everybody.” Sage advice for all during these uncertain times.
McGraw touched on how hard it is to see closures in the small business community throughout the area. “I can’t say it enough. Support your small businesses. Think small. Think local. Local businesses need the help.” With gift certificate sales being a huge success for Mother’s Day, other holidays throughout the summer are all uncertain. Catering for family events and other celebrations will have to be altered, but plentiful options are still available at Elegant Edibles. McGraw will work with any customer request. “That’s how I’ve been able to keep going through this. I don’t like to say no to anybody.”
Our local small businesses make up the core of our community. Operated by friends, neighbors, and family. In McGraw’s heartbreaking words, “It’s do or die” for some small businesses.
It is a joy to celebrate any major accomplishment in life. For Vicki McGraw and employees at Elegant Edibles their 20th business anniversary will have to be fully embraced once society can revert back to a normal structure. What an accomplishment! We all hope to celebrate business anniversaries far into the future with our local small businesses that may be struggling now through this pandemic.
“We are all re-learning how to exist. Every day is just a new segment of the bizarre,” says McGraw.
For more information about how Vicki at Elegant Edibles can offer you a cost-effective way to have home cooked meals, visit her website at elegantediblescatering.com, her Facebook business page, or give her a call at 716-488-0434.