Whenever people see the food catered by husband and wife team J.R. and Brena Phelps, they barely want to eat it. “Our food looks like a work of art, and people say they don’t want to touch it because it looks so pretty,” says Brena, co-owner of A Taste of Art with J.R. Catering. But aesthetics isn’t the only thing that has grown this Missouri City, Texas- based company to three full-time employees and $250,000 in revenue. So has the taste.
“Our food not only looks good but it’s also great food,” she says.
Investing $11,000 in personal savings, J.R., 42, and Brena, 45, launched their company in 1993. “With that money, we leased a place that used to be the headquarters for a commercial swimming pool company. We bought office furniture, remodeled the kitchen area and purchased ovens, refrigerators, china, linen, silverwear and other supplies.” To cut costs, they did a lot of the construction themselves, building cabinets and refinishing floors.
Prior to opening A Taste of Art, Brena Phelps taught cake designing and decorating classes at arts and craft stores in her community. J.R. Phelps, a master chef with 25 years of food preparation experience, worked nine years at the Houstonian, a posh hotel. The two also catered events, so by the time their shop opened they already had many loyal customers. To secure more, they began going to bridal shows.
A Taste of Art specializes in continental and international cuisine as well as custom-designed wedding cakes. In fact, more than half of the business is generated from catering weddings. For one client, Andre Ware, quarterback for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, and his bride, Brena designed a 10-tiered, five-foot cake with handmade flowers. It cost $2,000.
The Phelpses cater parties with as few as 15 guests and as many as 2,500. Corporate clients include Honeywell, Southwestern Bell and several school districts. Other customers include doctors, lawyers, professional athletes and television personalities. Prices range from $10-$50 per person. As with most start-ups, offering good service at a competitive price can sometimes be difficult. To combat this, J.R. hired experienced and qualified people to help with the business.
The future looks bright for A Taste of Art. “Within two to three years, we’d like to have sales of about $1 million,” says Brena. “We also have plans to expand to another location in the near future.”
A Taste of Art with J.R. Catering, 2258 FM 1092, Missouri City, TX 77459; 281-499-7952