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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The End

I started Graze Catering in September 2006.  We, the wife and boy and I, had just moved to Walla Walla from Sacramento.  We had no family or friends here.  It looked like a nice place to live and grow a family.  I had spent the last eight years teaching junior high and high school science.  The wife cut and colored women's hair.

Business was slow at first.  It is hard to build a business in a foreign place (especially when the owner is unsure of himself, isn't great at networking, and refused to spend money on advertising, but I digress.)  Nine months in I contacted our landlord and put in notice to end our month to month lease.  He told me to hang in there, adjusted our monthly lease downward, and we decided to give it another year.

Little by little I gained confidence and started landing winery jobs and weddings.  The former event manager from the shuttered Homestead joined on, which mainlined us into big community events, and we were able to band-aid together a barely profitable business. 

Years two through six were fairly insane.  Looking back I still don't know how I/we/us made it.  The first 40 hour a week employee didn't show up until year three.  A weekend would look like: lunch for 40 Thursday, five course wine dinner for 12 Friday, paninis at the Farmers Market (which one high school student and two Whitman students would run) for 110, a wedding in a field for 100 and a second wedding at a winery for 150.  Sunday was dedicated to washing dishes.  (by hand for the first two years.)

In 2013 I stepped out of chef role and our current chef, Brian Mahan, started to run the catering.  He has done a great job.  I spent more time figuring out sandwich world, which has become the tail that wags the dog.  This September, 2015 we will open our fourth GRAZE - 'a place to eat' location in Richland. 

For every catering $1 we sell, we sell $7 sandwich dollars.  And let me be clear, that catering $1 is a lot... I mean a very hard $1 to produce.  The business that used to be catering with some sandwiching, is now very much a sandwich business that has a catering operation that gets in the way. 

So Graze Catering is closing its doors.  (we will keep doing a few of our long term jobs for a couple of wineries and community events, so you may see us out and about occasionally.)  Thank you for hiring us!  This has been a crazy crazy ride.  Wouldn't change a single thing along the way. 

Cheers - John and Becca Lastoskie