Amy Brown is co-owner of Chow Girls, a catering company in northeast Minneapolis.
Although Amy Brown was â€œraised in the home kitchenâ€ and co-owner Heidi Andermack had a grandmother who was a caterer, â€œneither of us really spent our youth in kitchens the way a lot of people in the industry did,â€ Brown said. â€œWe both had smaller restaurant jobs â€” I worked as a line cook in college.â€ They both loved entertaining and met â€œgoing to each otherâ€™s parties.â€ Brown recalled seeing â€œthe way Heidi displayed the tomato salad and thinking, â€˜Why didnâ€™t I think of that?â€™â€
They were friends for a year before they came up with the Chow Girls concept. â€œWe were both looking for new careers at that point,â€ Brown said. â€œI had a corporate job for Random House. I was starting to get antsy â€” the publishing world has changed so much. I was looking for a backup plan.â€ They started the business part-time and thought of it as a hobby. â€œI never thought it would make me a living necessarily. We did a lot of art openings. We were involved in the northeast Minneapolis art scene. We catered artist friendsâ€™ art openings. Our first major gig was for Minnesota Monthly. There we met an event planner who really encouraged us to grow our business.â€
Grow their business they did. They are now completing their third kitchen expansion, which will enable them to double their business. They have â€œabout 25 full-time insured employees on staff,â€ Brown said, in addition to another 50 servers who work part-time.
Brown and her partner are no longer in charge of day-to-day operations. Instead, the women whose business cards read â€œBoss Ladyâ€ are in charge of managing the companyâ€™s continuing growth. â€œWeâ€™re really working hard on our bar services,â€ Brown said. She also recently found an agent for a proposed series of cookbooks.
â€œWeâ€™ve come a long way,â€ Brown said. â€œWe had some growing pains in the first five years, before we stopped trying to do everything ourselves. The best thing we ever did is to empower people and allow them to build their careers.â€
Are the winter holidays a busy time of year for you?
Itâ€™s crazy. With the rest of the larger parties we do â€” corporate parties and weddings â€” thereâ€™s a lot of planning. People call us months out. A lot of holiday parties seem to be last-minute ideas. Thatâ€™s the biggest challenge.
Are holiday parties different in other ways?
Holiday parties tend to happen every night of the week. People are a little bit more flexible, more apt to say â€œWhatever youâ€™ve got is fine â€” I know itâ€™s last minute.â€ Weâ€™re doing a lot more holiday parties in January and February. They call it the holiday party even though the season is over. Itâ€™s less stressed, clearly more relaxed. Weâ€™re looking for that business. Retailers have parties in February or March. Given the unpredictability of the winters, people donâ€™t want to plan a $3,000 party if for all they know a blizzard could hit and nobody wants to leave their homes to come to it.
Do you still enjoy the holidays?
There is nothing I love more. I like it a lot more now that Iâ€™m not the one going to everyone elseâ€™s parties. I have a lot more energy for my own family and my own travels down to Kentucky. Itâ€™s nice to be able to do that again.