Caterers to retire in December

Owner of Boulevard & Beyond says competition too stiff

new owners seek tenants

October 15, 2006|By Sarah O'Brien | Sarah O'Brien,Special to The Sun

The owners of a longtime fixture in Westminster's catering scene will soon call it quits.

Tom McPherson and wife Colleen last month sold Boulevard & Beyond, the catering business's property and facility on Route 140, and will cease operations Dec. 31.

Tom McPherson, who has operated the business with his wife since buying it from Wilhelm Ltd. Caterers in 1999, said competition has gotten too stiff in Carroll County.

"We've had a decline in business because of an influx of competition," McPherson said. "The market is not growing significantly enough to support it."

He estimates that his revenue has declined between 5 percent and 8 percent annually for the past four years.

"Competition can be good to an extent, but not this much," he said.

Between now and year's end, the business, which employs 32 workers, has several hundred events already booked that McPherson is focusing on.

"Right now, I'm still concentrating on the business and doing what we do well," McPherson said.

Before the McPhersons bought the business, Larry Wilhelm and his brother Gary had owned it since 1980, when it was started.

"I'm saddened that it won't be there anymore," Larry Wilhelm said. He and his brother own Friendly Farms, a family-style restaurant in Upperco.

While statistics on the local catering industry are hard to come by, observers say there's been an increase in the facilities available for events and also businesses that do catering.

For instance, Wilhelm said he's watched restaurants get into catering, a trend that started about a decade ago.

"I'd say a third of the restaurants in Westminster do catering," he said. "That's something they didn't use to do."

Bruce D'Anthony, a commercial real estate broker with Re/Max Advantage Realty in Westminster, is one of three investors who purchased the property from McPherson.

D'Anthony said he and his partners are actively seeking tenants from many industries, including national restaurant chains, for the 20,000-square-foot facility.

The modest redbrick building with green awnings sits on 2.2 acres next to Len Stoler Jeep and across from Gardiner's Furniture, just east of Westminster city limits on Route 140.

D'Anthony is leasing the space to McPherson through the end of the year.

"He's a very community-minded person and didn't want to back out of any of his obligations," D'Anthony said.

Richard Haddad, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, said Boulevard & Beyond's closing is a loss for the county.

"It's been very upsetting," he said. "They've been chamber members for years and years. It's also a huge loss for the chamber because we've held about a half-dozen events there a year."

He added that the new owners of the property would likely land a new tenant with relative ease.

"It's a neat location, so I wouldn't guess they'd have much of a problem finding a replacement [tenant]," Haddad said.

D'Anthony's fellow investors are Khalil Freiji, a doctor with Westminster Internal Medicine Associates LLC, and David Zikorus, a principal with Interstate Construction and Development Co. Inc. in Finksburg.

According to state records, the three purchased the property for $2.5 million.

Records show that McPherson bought it from Wilhelm in 2004 for $1.845 million.

McPherson, 53, said he has mixed feelings about leaving the catering business.

"This isn't an easy decision to make, especially when you've done it all your life," said McPherson, who worked in the hotel industry, both in management and food and beverage roles, before getting into catering.

"But it's long hours, and it's days, evenings, weekends, holidays. I'm slowing down at my age." As for life after Dec. 31, McPherson hasn't made plans.

"I'm sure my wife will keep me busy," he said.

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