Unique Comfort Food

This is what owning it in the kitchen looks like.

Glamorous, right? Well, yes and no. These photos illustrate the beauty, strength, and individuality of these four women, all owners of local food and drink establishments. But their words also display the decidedly unglamorous side of the business—the grit and willpower it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur in an industry that isn’t always welcoming for women.

Though women stereotypically have been told to stay in the kitchen, restaurants and bars traditionally have been dominated by men. According to PR Newswire and the Women’s Foodservice Forum, women now represent 60 percent of the first-line food-prep managers and service workers—but far, far fewer gain entrance to senior management teams.

In the first of a four-part series, Stock & Barrel presents a closer look at Columbus women of the food and drink scene—from management to servers to chefs to growers. The project is a partnership with a new local photography company called Black Locust, owned by Catherine Murray and Stephanie McNally, who focus on empowering women through portraiture.

“This experience allowed me to see myself in a different light…figuratively and literally,” said Brooke Kinsey, partner at Bleu & Fig. “I believe every woman owes themselves the experience of feeling beautiful.”

Here’s to owning it, and to this valuable insight into the struggles and accomplishments of these women.

Heather Morris

Owner / Operator

Destination Donuts

destinationdonuts.com

North Market
(in business two years)

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What are your thoughts on equality in the workplace and challenges facing women in the food industry? 

A very large obstacle is the balance of work / life / parenthood. Obviously men struggle with this as well, but I know it’s more of a challenge for women. Generally we have to choose career or motherhood. The long, unusual hours make it a challenge to find childcare; wages are generally on the lower end of the spectrum. A five-day workweek is not the norm. It’s hard. The business is not for the faint-hearted.

Any advice for future women business owners?

You’ll never know your true potential without throwing some caution to the wind. Yes, the risks should be calculated and thought through, but without trying something new, or challenging the norm, how will you know what you’re capable of? Additionally, know that owning your own business is one of the most difficult, exhausting, thankless paths you can take. It’s not easy. You have to pour your heart and soul into it. You’ll work more hours than you’ll ever imagine. Friendships will be challenged, personal relationships will be tested, your own inner strength will be pushed to the breaking point. But it’s also one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. I wouldn’t change a thing, other than I wish I had taken the plunge sooner.

Faith E. Pierce

Co-owner

Yellow Brick Pizza

yellowbrickpizza.com

Olde Towne East

(in business five years)

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What do you think it takes to make it in the food industry?

Passion, courage, and above all, patience. This has to be something that you love, that you have a passion for, or the hours and the headaches and slim margins aren’t going to be worth it, and you’re going to give up or fail. … You also have to be a bit of a renaissance woman to do this because you never know what’s going to pop up, from computer issues to coming up with new recipes to getting on the roof of your building to clear ice from the gutters.

What are your thoughts on equality in the workplace and challenges facing women in the food industry? 

I’ll just say this: inequality still exists in our society at every level, and not just when it comes to gender. It’s important that we not forget this and that we continue to strive to see everyone as human, as just like us. … There’s this dichotomy that exists where being a server or bartender, as a woman, can be very lucrative but also very hostile for the same reasons. Maybe a man tips a good-looking bartender as much as 30 or 50 percent or even 100 percent of their tab, but maybe that man is also a creep and says inappropriate things to her as she serves him. This is the problem. Sometimes we can be made to feel like we have to take that kind of abuse in order to receive tips, and that’s unacceptable.

Brooke Kinsey

Partner / Chef

Bleu & Fig

bleuandfig.com

Clintonville

(in business five years)

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How do you see courageousness showing up in your business?

In business and in life, you always need to have the courage to ask questions [or] admit when you don’t know something. Surround yourself with courageous, strong, and smart people—by doing this, you have more access to knowledge and more access to opportunities. You have to be courageous to stand out, and you need to stand out to get noticed. You need to be a risk-taker and that takes courage.

What are your thoughts on equality in the workplace and challenges facing women in the food industry? 

Pretty simple really: equality for women means progress for all. Challenges in the food service are not gender-specific. The truth is, there is a reality to the food industry that is brutally harsh. Female, male … there will always be sacrifices made.

Any advice for future women business owners?

This is not always easy … but network like a social butterfly. It is the best way to market your business. Build relationships. Set realistic goals. When you need help, hire help. This is a big step, but you must work on growing your business, not just working in your business.

Michelle Hill

Owner / Operator

St. James Tavern

stjamestavern.com

Italian Village

(in business 19 years)

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How do you see the characteristic of being daring showing up in your business?

Back in 1996, Italian Village and North Fourth Street were quite a different place than the state they are in today. Most of the industries that had employed many residents in the neighborhood closed up in the late-’80s, which led to many buildings and homes abandoned by the ’90s. I wasn’t afraid to be a pioneer in the area, so I created a neighborhood bar that I hoped would someday attract more people who would want to come live in the area. Many people thought I was crazy; turns out I was just being daring. It seems my plan has paid off, though. The neighborhood is now one of the fastest-growing and most desirable places to live or start a business in Columbus.

What are your thoughts on equality in the workplace and challenges facing women in the food industry?

I think that the mentalities surrounding women owning bars / restaurants have changed quite a bit in the last two decades—perhaps because there are so many of us these days. Unfortunately, there is always room for improvement. I still think that people look over our shoulders to find a husband (surely we are all married!) to explain why we own a business. While those attitudes are fading, they still linger around and appear when you least expect it.

Photos by Black Locust

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