On September 1st 2013 Marisa Cardamone, my mum, closed the doors of her family business - Cardamone Gourmet Supermarket - for the last time. After 52 years it would be the final time an actual family member would do it.
We had been debating for years 'should we sell?’ It was only until we saw the contract of sale that we knew it was the right thing to do. Unbelievably, the buyers had chosen the 1st of September as the settlement date. Not only was this Father's Day, but it is also the birthday of mums late brother. Mum knew this meant that her dad and brother were guiding her and encouraging her to move forward and embark on a new journey. The excitement started to build.
What would life after 'the shop' be like? Could our new little business, Marisa's Kitchen, be able to stand alone? We were consumed by fear and dread but also overwhelmed by the upcoming lifestyle change. Our life and choices would not be controlled by retail hours anymore. The simple planning of a birthday would be a pleasure not a burden. Also knowing that your parents are home all weekend pottering around the garden and catching up with friends, instead of working 12 hour shifts, is a huge relief.
As a family, the first few months were difficult, we felt confused, lost and surprisingly flat. But then it was Christmas..... We spent Christmas Eve together as a family, cooking, laughing, and enjoying each other. Nobody was exhausted, nobody was at work and everybody was happy. Most importantly we only had to cook one ham and one porchetta! That night when I tucked my six year old son Julian into bed he whispered ' That was the best Christmas Eve ever mum'. I never thought he had been affected by the chaos of previous years. Hearing those words reassured me that we had made the right decision. Although it will be strange that one day, my children will not have any memories of a business that has been all we have known for so long.
Where to from here?
Marisa's Kitchen started when our loyal customers at Cardamone’s would bustle in after work and call out 'Marisa what’s cooking?' Mum would be in the back preparing dinner for her own family and call out 'Lasagna, want some?'. Week by week the word started spreading and mum was doubling and tripling her 'family dinners'. My sister and I encouraged her to do more. So she started making batches of her luscious pestos, handmade pockets, and slow cooked sauces.
Next she needed a logo and then things started to take off. Mum didn't stop at that, in her free time she studied hard and also became a certified chef, something we are all extremely proud of.
People often ask us why are our meals frozen? I wish I could tell them - that’s what Italians do!! We cook as though we are feeding an army, we cook in batches and we are always prepared for a visitor (even if no one is coming!) We always have Bolognese in the freezer, a tray of lasagna, some meatballs and the super organised will have brodo and gnocchi too. However I always give my 'professional' reason. We use fresh eggs in some of our products and there are no added preservatives. Basically our meals cannot sit in a fridge with a three week expiry date. They would not last. We would rather eat something that has been freshly frozen.
Everything we sell we feed to our families so it has to be the best. People often say to mum 'It's just for the kids' her response is always 'so you give them the best, right?' We are hoping our customers will be able to see and taste the love that goes into our food.
My sister still calls me some days and says 'I can’t believe we sold the shop'. I still panic before I feel a wave of relief. Yes we definitely had some good times and met some wonderful lifelong friends but....................... We are ready for the next chapter.