Our Passion for Great Food and Wonderful Hospitality is Here to Stay.
“Passion turned career” is the perfect phrase to describe what sister-brother team Allison Thomas and Justin Wilkes did when they started Scarborough Fare Catering more than 20 years ago. The siblings decided that what eastern North Carolina needed was a catering team that provided, not only the BEST food, but an abundance of good ol’ southern hospitality too! Although times are uncertain at the moment and we are living through something truly historic, you can trust Scarborough Fare, no matter what. We may not be sure what the future holds involving COVID-19, but we know we will be here for customers when they need us! Just look at our track record in dealing with unforeseen circumstances and difficult times!
Since business kicked off in 1998, we have survived and been strengthened by natural disaster and extreme challenges. “Hurricane Floyd was probably the first time I remember us having to alter our policy of non-refundable, non-transferable,” says Allison. “During this time no one in eastern North Carolina could do business and our main kitchen in Snow Hill, NC was an island. We used good common sense and kindness and worked with couples to settle on future dates to celebrate. And celebrate we did! We made FANTASTIC memories and helped create goodness out of miserable circumstances,” she continues.
Another time Allison recalls working through a challenge to create a beautiful wedding was actually for her sister, Candace. Two days before the scheduled ceremony, Hurricane Isabel rolled through and plummeted the landscape of their childhood home and garden, where the wedding was to take place. They had to rely on generators for a period of time, truck deliveries were delayed, and kitchen work was delayed. But that didn’t stop them! They all came together to clean up the venue and “had a wonderful wedding reception with the most glorious weather,” says Allison. Allison remembers actually arriving late to the rehearsal dinner the night before because her and Justin were finishing details for the reception the next day. “We put the same care into our sister’s wedding that we put into every paying customer. We put sweat and tears into our work!,” she says.
Obviously, we’re no strangers to hurricanes here in eastern NC. In recent years, customers have lost their wedding venues during Hurricane Matthew and were welcomed at The Martinsborough to continue with their vows and reception celebration. Details and impeccable planning occured in just a matter of days! “One of these nights our staff was trapped at The Martinsborough until 4 in the morning, as all roads out of town were impassable from the flash flooding. This was prior to us taking down the wall at the Martinsborough and expanding into the existing hair salon, now The Salon. A sofa remained in that space along with the absolute most comfortable salon chairs and what do you know, my sister Candace washed an employee’s hair and made the best out of the situation. It was hilarious even after only a few hours of sleep, as we had a wedding the following day to complete,” Allison playfully recalls.
Of course, you can’t be in business for more than 20 years without running into a few difficult personal circumstances. “I remember my father having a heart attack in the midst of the wedding season and him saying, ‘If I die, just put me on ice and bury me when you can.’ It was a joke, but my family and extended team members know that we may be a small business but we act and make decisions like a big business as our customers come first and meeting their needs is of utmost importance,” says Allison.
“Having babies is very challenging and for me personally, one of life’s greatest challenges. My children were conceived with modern medicine and big prayers and faith in God. Even making babies was influenced by our work scheduled. I remember telling my doctor, “I can do in vitro fertilization during July and August as my catering schedule is light,” says Allison. The twins arrived prematurely after Allison had been placed on bed rest for weeks. But, Scarborough Fare Catering did not miss a beat, as we have always had the best team members. It is a constant struggle to find folks dedicated to the catering industry as it is so labor intensive and physically hard on the body, but we have been so fortunate to surround ourselves with really great people that are as conscientious as we are and value our customers and the job we have promised them.
During the market crash of 2008, was the first year sales declined and up until now, has been our only decline. We grew stronger and prevailed. We are making good decisions through this crisis and will be strengthened and prevail again. 2020 was forecasted to be our best year yet and many fellow industry friends were forecasting the same. Events may look a bit different in near future. Sanitation stations may become the norm at all future events. Live streaming of weddings may be a new trend. Safe social distancing measures will encourage less hugging, hand shakes, and our culture may embrace this for an extended period of time. Styles and setup of food service may change as we shift from less self-service, like buffets and grazing displays, to plated meals or small plate fashion with servers preparing the plates. Whatever the challenges, we’re up for it!
Our plan in 2021? Absolutely continue with planning your wedding and celebrations of life! We will come out on the other side of this crisis and be ready more than ever to honor and memorialize what we find so special in our lives. We absolutely commend the health care participants more than ever and know when the time is right, people will celebrate who and what they value! And, we WILL be right there ready to make our customer’s dreams come true!
“As for my personal goal after this crisis eases – get back to church on Sundays and get my kids comfortable with Jesus and God! No matter what I look like or feel like on Sunday, Jesus is the answer! I’d be pushing it if I said goal number two is to cook for my family on Sundays, though. Eek!,” says Allison.
Article Provided By: Scarborough Fare Catering