Black Friday was coming and Shannon Farrell knew what it would be like on the day after Thanksgiving.
“They won’t let their employees leave,” Farrell said of store managers at the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes. “The stores will be full, the workers will be busy, and we’ll be there to feed them.”
Shannon’s Sweets is itself located at the outlets and has become a go-to place for store managers and their staffs. They partake in healthy sandwiches, coffees, teas and treats. On Black Friday, and extending into December, the holidays bring a pickup in business and opportunities when it comes to catering. Holiday parties – both at home and in the workplace – bring orders, and for some in the business, it starts with Thanksgiving.
“Right now, I’m booked solid,” said Celinda Galindo, the chef and owner of Gourmet Central by Cel of Brownsville. “It makes for long days and lots of Thanksgiving home packages.”
Galindo was looking at 83 such packages going into Thanksgiving with sides and the fixings to go with pies. The inclination to cook for that holiday appears to be waning in general, she said. Now catering businesses and others in the food preparation industry are gearing up to meet the need.
“It’s that good,” Galindo said of the business generated during the holidays. “October, going into November and December, is a whole part of the year unto itself.”
Mario Dominguez Jr., at The Smoking Oak, a Mercedes barbecue business, says there’s another added element to December other than the Christmas season. Mid-year graduations with students finishing their high school years early and college graduates graduating in the middle of the academic year bring food orders in addition to the holiday work and family gatherings.
“Come December, it (business) does pick up,” Dominguez said. “The Winter Texans are back by then, and add to it the other factors, it’s a good month for us.”
Holiday cheer drives catering business up
At Shannon’s Sweets, cakes and pies are one of Farrell’s specialties. Some catering orders will request over a dozen pies or cakes. Red velvet and a mandarin orange cake with whipped cream are among her signature items. Sandwich platters will be a must item in December for the many holiday workplace parties she will cater in the Mid-Valley and Harlingen areas.
“I like that we give them (customers) something that’s more wholesome and healthier,” Farrell said. “We make everything from scratch, so they know they’re getting something genuine and real.”
In Brownsville, Galindo recalled a recent stretch of time where she worked 12-plus hours each day and getting home at 9 p.m. one evening after a busy day.
“I hit the pillow and I was out,” she said, saying it was a restful eight-hour sleep night she badly needed.
The next day, she was up at it, with no rest for a weary caterer during the holidays.