MEALS: Oakville venue sells them readymade
Accidental career is born out of culinary necessity
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
BY ERIN COVEY | REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Leave it to a multitasking mom to invent a business, almost accidentally. Shannon Morcey was well-versed at juggling a healthy diet, competing in roller derby and commuting to her job in Stamford.
“I would meal prep on Sundays and Wednesdays, religiously,” said Morcey, who is 35 and lives in Waterbury.
After her first child, a daughter, was born in 2011, Morcey left her career in print production. At the time, her husband wanted to lose weight, so she got to work on pre-portioned meals for both of them. He ended up losing 75 pounds. Friends started noticing the weight loss and a business was born.
“A bunch of his friends were like, ‘If I pay your wife to cook, will she cook meals for me?’” said Morcey, who now also has an 18-month-old son.
She started making meals for friends out of her home early last year. The name Black Market Kitchen is a wink to those unlawful early days. Single men who put in long hours at the gym and their jobs were just the beginning.
“Now, we have a really wide range of people,” Morcey said of current customers. “People are just swamped with work and kids and social activities and things.”
That’s what lured Stephanie Oliver to the service. The Watertown woman shops for groceries on weekends but fresh ingredients become limited by the end of the week. Black Market Kitchen picks up from there.
“We do both dinner and lunch,” the mother of two said by phone, above the sounds of her active, young children.
“When I first had kids, my philosophy was, ‘They are going to eat what we eat.’ My kids love the coconut rice and avocado rice. They love the roasted beets. They eat everything.”
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Black Market Kitchen owner Shannon Morcey shows us around her kitchen while she cooks in a video only at rep-am.com.
Shannon Morcey, owner of Black Market Kitchen in Oakville, prepares ready-made meals for customers who don’t have time in the day to cook nutritous meals. She started out making similar meals at home and then for friends before opening the business.
ERIIN COVEY REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
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Morcey’s initial male clientele hasn’t waned, however. Bobby Tehan was committed to working out regularly but couldn’t understand why his dedication to the gym wasn’t paying off on the scale.
“I sat down with the coaches and they said, ‘What are you putting between your lips?” said Tehan, of Waterbury.
He admitted it was easier to grab a pizza driving home from work than it was to prepare something healthy. Tehan immediately signed up for the ready-made dinners.
“Within two and a half months, I had lost 35 pounds,” he said.
Black Market Kitchen delivers breakfast, lunch and dinners, but most customers preorder and then pick up on Mondays and Wednesdays. Morcey caters to specialized diets by offering gluten-free, Paleo and vegetarian options. She was surprised that her simplest meals are also the most popular.
“Ground turkey and steamed green beans with brown rice heats up very well,” she said.
Also a favorite? Cranberry and sage turkey meatballs with roasted brussels sprouts and apples.
Since moving into the World Gym building along Main Street in Oakville, Morcey has added a counter with coffee, protein shakes, fresh fruit and energy bars. Extra meals are in the cooler for customers who haven’t ordered in advance.
Morcey acknowledged she’s entering the market at what seems like the perfect time. Consumers are more health-conscious than ever but they’re also at their busiest. “Not a lot of people have a ton of time to cook, go to the grocery store, or meal prep,” she said.
While national companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh have capitalized on delivering healthy food to the home, it still requires time to assemble the ingredients.
Oliver prefers the local aspect.
“There is nothing I’d rather support than another mom working hard to make an impact on the community, and more importantly, her family,” she said, adding that she has no plans to take on more dinner responsibilities. “Heat it up, put it on a nice plate, and there you go.”
Erin Keenan, an employee at Black Market Kitchen in Oakville, reads the day’s ingredients to owner Shannon Morcey, behind her. The shop offers ready-made breakfast, lunch and dinners, along with smoothies and juice. Customers pre-order meals that can be customized to support vegetarian, gluten-free and Paleo diets.
ERIN COVEY REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN