Client Story - Angela's Pasta & Cheese Shop
Client Name: Steven Freeman
Business Name: Angela's Pasta and Cheese Shop
Business Website: www.angelaspastaandcheese.com
Location: Manchester, NH
SBDC Advisor's Name: Amy Bard
“I liken my shop to my first experience at a Mercedes dealership,” says Steven Freeman, owner of Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop. “No one goes into a Mercedes dealership needing a Mercedes; they want a Mercedes.” As the Angela’s tag line says, they offer “the best of everything, and everything you’re looking for.”
As Manchester’s premier pasta, cheese, and wine shop, Angela’s offers a variety of imported and fresh pastas, cheeses, deli meats and charcuterie, wines, prepared meals, bread, desserts, soup and sandwiches, and other specialty food items. They also have a fine selection of unique gift items and gift baskets to celebrate any occasion.
Steven has a background in architecture and construction since 1992, but when thinking about owning a business, he instead turned his attention toward his passion for culinary pursuits. Growing up on 2nd Street in Manchester and working in the food establishments there, he discovered a love and talent for the industry, spending much of his free time catering and teaching people how to cook. Steven always thought about being a business owner and hiring people with disabilities, but it had to be a business he was passionate about.
Angela’s has been in business 41 years, and Steven purchased it in June 2020. He was a frequent customer and aspired to open his own shop. He had thought about buying Angela’s since 2015, sharing, “I wanted to employ people, build a brand, and get more people to eat high quality foods.” Years later, he asked one of the two men who then owned Angela’s if they had any plans to sell, and more importantly, did they have any family waiting in line to take over. In an ironic twist of fate, the gentleman told Steven his business partner had just passed away the week prior.
With a business of his own within reach, but no experience in owning a business, Steven needed some support. So, he reached out to SBDC and began working with SBDC Business Advisor Amy Bard. It was about a year before the purchase of the business was finalized, and he needed help with everything that goes into getting a business off the ground. “It was phenomenal support,” says Steven. Amy provided him encouragement, options to consider as he navigated his decisions, and documents and templates to follow in creating a business model. Steven adds, “I could not have done it without the SBDC and my mentors at SCORE.”
Now at the helm of owning and operating Angela’s, Steven has brought his vision to reality, complete with a strong staff, a couple of whom have special needs. “They are an asset to the organization,” says Steven, adding, “I love my staff.”
He is having fun too! Raised by his mom and three sisters, Steven always loved shopping, so he’s having a great time traveling around the state, curating the items he carefully selects for his store. “Customers comment on how they love the products,” says Steven. As a result, Angela’s revenue is increasing.
Customer service is also at the top of Steven’s priority list. Every Sunday, he picks a town and heads there to experience those businesses, study what they do well or not so well, using that information to improve upon the service offered at his shop. Steven says, “I’m really proud of how great our customer service is.”
The biggest challenge though has been the labor shortage. He shared that he conducts a lot of interviews, and many candidates don’t respond or don’t show. Admittedly, he can’t pay his staff the hourly rate they might get at a fast-food restaurant, but he has increased pay and placed an emphasis on providing a great work environment. “I’m a family first guy,” says Steven. Staff retention is important too, so if someone isn’t meeting expectations in their current role, Steven’s first reaction isn’t to let them go; it’s to support them. “We all have physical and mental limitations. Everyone has different skills in their wheelhouse,” says Steven. So, he finds what works for them, and what better suits their skill set. “That was a paradigm shift,” says Steven.
In the future, Steven hopes to grow Angela’s in many aspects, aiming to operate the shop flawlessly with an A+ customer service rating by empowering his team and building them up to have more experience. “I’ve got a lot of ideas,” says Steven. “I’m just not sure what’s next or how yet.”
When asked if he continues to keep in touch with SBDC, Steven shared that he hasn’t recently, but says, “I should reach out and reconnect soon.” His business advisor could help with the “what’s next” and “how” he mentioned. Reflecting on his time with SBDC, Steven encourages current and aspiring business owners,
“Call! Work with SBDC. They know how to make a business grow and get off the ground.”