Owner, Ivy's Simply Homemade
Owner, Ivy's Simply Homemade
There is nothing Ivy Mellow loves more than being in the kitchen. A Rhode Island native, Ivy started working at age 14, busing tables at Wilcox Tavern. She attended a technical high school and enrolled in the hairdressing program. Her friends kept trying to convince her to make the switch into culinary, but she said, “Absolutely not, there is no way I’m going to be stuck in a kitchen for the rest of my life.”
Flash forward 25 years later, and there’s no place she’d rather be.
After more than a decade in the culinary industry - from waitressing to catering to working front-of-house and special events at the River House in East Haddam - Ivy decided to create her own company.
“I found myself stopping at different places to pick up food on the way home from work, and realized there weren't a lot of places that served delicious, prepared meals to go,” she said. “I knew there was a need for it.”
She embarked on Ivy’s Simply Homemade, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary as Ivy’s Catering & Prepared Meals in May of 2021.
Whether her clients need a quick, healthy lunch or dinner for the whole family, Ivy’s offers options from staples like chicken parmesan and meatloaf, to fancier dishes like scallop and shrimp stuffed-sole with lobster cream sauce. Her goal is to cater to clients of a variety of tastes and budgets.
While Ivy originally hadn’t planned to offer catering, the requests for private parties inevitably rolled in. By year two, the catering division blossomed to the point where she had to hire a full time catering coordinator and additional staff, who conduct private events all over Connecticut and Rhode Island.
“I love to create, I love to cook,” she said. “My favorite is still good old-fashioned comfort food, like shepherd's pie… you know, the stuff that fills the air with that can’t-beat aroma of a home cooked meal.”
When the company was closed last spring for a month during the height of the pandemic, Ivy invested her time into bettering her business from home.
She accessed WBDC online and started taking classes, from marketing to quickbooks, to take her business to the next level when she was able to reopen.
“I simply started to educate myself more, and WBDC gave me the resources to do just that,” she said.
WBDC also helped Ivy understand and apply for a PPP loan. “The communication is just excellent. If you ask for help, they’ll help you.” She found legal guidance and mentorship through WBDC free of charge. When the loan process was complete, she committed to securing an EMG grant.
“The grant was a lot of work for me, not being great at traditional schooling or book work,” she said.. “It took me a long time, but through the process alone, I learned so much about my business. I relearned my business just by submitting the proposal.”
Ivy used the grant funds to purchase new equipment, including a three-door reach-in freezer for the front-of-house and a charbroiler for the back. “WBDC helped me survive a challenging year, and I learned more than I could have ever expected. I am forever grateful,” she said.