ADDRESS: 1324 NW 9th St, Corvallis OR
OWNER: Kate Lynch
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 1
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 15
WHAT THEY SELL: Full-service catering, including variety of menus, bartending, express drop and go service, event planning, and décor for any special event.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Forks and Corks Catering plans and beautifully executes events throughout the Willamette Valley, offering artfully presented, fresh cuisine, always served with warm hospitality.
Forks and Corks Catering has a fun and welcoming atmosphere. Peering into the kitchen where the cooking for that day’s event is taking place, a chef is hard at work making something chocolaty and delicious. Kate, the business’s owner and manager, graciously welcomes those who enter, exuding her hospitality and love of what she does. Her work providing excellent service for special occasions is more than just a job—it’s a true passion!
Kate, when and why did you decide to start your business? I opened Forks and Corks Catering just over a year ago, having always loved the life of event catering. When I was twenty years old, young and determined, I opened up my first business: Kate’s Katering. I got my first catering call from Westinghouse Corporation, and grew a home-based business over the next ten years. I sold the business in 2001 and eventually settled in Corvallis, the perfect place to open my own local catering business. After twenty-two years in the business, I’ve found Corvallis is the perfect place to do what I love.
Tell us more about your services. What are your specialties? Forks and Corks is a full-service division of catering, meaning we provide a wide range of services in addition to cuisine, including linens, china rentals, bartending, event planning, and styling. We work hard to meet diverse requests and needs, from weddings to corporate functions. We also have an express-line, drop-and-go service. We specialize in off-premise catering in the Willamette Valley, with a focus on making food that is well-presented and artfully prepared. Personally, I love cooking with the Pacific Northwest cuisine. It’s fresh, healthy, and clean. One specialty is our signature appetizer, Havarti with Whiskey Caramel Sauce. Be sure to try it!
What does being featured as the Local business of the Week mean to you? I think it’s very important. I like to think that Forks and Corks is an integral part of this community. After choosing to live in Corvallis and developing a business here, it’s heartening to be embraced and supported by the community through things like the Local Business of the Week program. With this support, we are excited to continue to provide good service. The relationship between a local business and a community is a team effort. When we work in catering, it’s important to know that Corvallis is appreciative of our work.
Do you fill an unusual niche? What does your business do better than anyone else? We work to make our catering services very polished and presented well. This means having an eye for detail. We emphasize having professional staff, well laid out buffets, and visually-pleasing décor. The food should be beautiful, garnished, and attractive. We hope that guests at our clients’ events will eat with their eyes first. It’s a pleasure to see guests delight in the food, not only for its taste, but for its aesthetic appeal.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner, and how have you met those challenges? Opening a new small business is a big commitment—physically, mentally, and emotionally. In the first year, we have had to make major financial decisions, relying on the hope that Forks and Corks will be successful in the long-term. For me, one of the biggest challenges has been creating a good work-life balance. It’s important to find fun in being very busy! Also, letting go of some tasks and handing them over to our well-qualified support staff has been an adjustment for me. Though, fortunately, we have been fairly quick in booking functions, we continue to market to get the word out about Forks and Corks. We hope to continue growing!
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? When I moved here six years ago, I immediately loved how Corvallis works hard to maintain integrity. For the most part, Corvallis keeps the “big guys” out, and I’d like to see that continue. I think that this will completely dictate the health of local businesses here. I think all Corvallis’s small businesses keep the town charming. Our thriving downtown is evidence of that.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? What excites or inspires you, makes you keep changing, improving? I have always found catering to a local community an amazingly gratifying business. It has a sense of “breaking bread” together, and I love creating a positive atmosphere of hospitality through the sharing of food. The business of catering is highly community-oriented, and I think this trait fits with Corvallis really well, as the town is such a tight-knit community. More generally, it’s a great experience to witness and help out in celebrations of the most important moments in people’s lives. It’s an honor to play an integral role in these events.
What organizations do you support and/or participate in? I am a board member of Visit Corvallis, and a member of both CIBA and DCA. Forks and Corks supports a lot of charities through our catering of charity events, and we also donate some of our left-over food to the less fortunate.
How many people do you employ? Do you think your employees are better off working for a local independents rather than a chain? Forks and Corks Catering employs fifteen full-time, part-time, and on-call staff. We are continually expanding our business, and we recently hired two full-time catering supervisors, and a full-time chef, Matt Case, the prior Del Alma sous chef. I think that employees working for local independents are better off than with a chain because they have more creative freedom. This is good for them, as well as exciting for me to see and be part of. This creativity in employees is an inspiring growth opportunity for any local business.
How important is sustainability to you and or your business? Have you taken steps to increase the sustainability of your business model? In our cuisine, we work to support local farms. This takes a cooperative effort, and it’s a lot of fun to build positive relationships. Also, we try to use compostable paper products in our cooking and serving. More generally, we don’t open pre-made product and incorporate it into our cooking: we are baking and cooking with whole foods, and from scratch. This is both healthy and tasty!
Please give us your one-sentence take away message about your business. With Forks and Corks Catering, you can count on fresh, contemporary cuisine, warm hospitality, professional, polished service, and artful presentation.
(Interview and article by Elizabeth Humphrey – May 26, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).