+ By Marley Crank + Photos by Kaitlyn McQuaid
A small group of friends walk through the doors of Main & Market for a weekend dinner out. They come upon a crowded dining room filled with the smiling faces of families and friends enjoying their meals. The hostess welcomes them into the café, informing them that it will be a bit of a wait. Comforting smells of home cooking waft through the air, and the tantalizing cakes and piles of pastries in the case across the room create a sense of homeyness. The group eyes each enticing dish that is being delivered around them before the decision seems to make itself: “Put us down for a party of three, please!”
The enterprise that has become Main & Market was originally named Main Ingredient. It was born out of Garry’s Grill, a restaurant in Severna Park, when it decided to broaden its horizons to catering. Michelle O’Brien brought the concept to life by in 1993, and from the get-go she aimed to provide carefully curated and high-quality catering experiences to a broad clientele.
The company quickly outgrew its Severna Park roots and upgraded to a bigger space to accommodate more catering jobs. In 1997, Main Ingredient moved to its current location at 914 Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis. At the time, that area was not home to many food service providers, but the location proved to be ideal, especially as the company became the exclusive caterer to the Blue Heron Room at Quiet Waters Park, just down the road.
Main Ingredient flourished and soon integrated a café and bakery along with its catering services, providing to-go gourmet foods, desserts, and drinks—a service ahead of its time—which captivated the attention of the local community.
A year after the Annapolis location opened, the relationship between Main Ingredient and Garry’s Grill dissolved, and the café matured to include the option to eat in. This offered customers the opportunity to enjoy with leisure Main Ingredient’s cuisine, all made to-order on any given day, not just when catered. O’Brien’s daughter ran the café, and her daughter’s best friend, Evie Turner, ran the catering. Turner had worked part-time at Main Ingredient when the company began, catering for O’Brien, and as the company evolved, her role there also evolved.
Amid the build up to the economic collapse of 2008, many fell victim to hard times; companies collapsed, and businesses and individuals became more frugal. Catering became a luxury, and the demand for corporate catering declined, dwindling Main Ingredient’s business. During this time, Main Ingredient was fortunate enough to find a new partner to support its endeavors—in 2007, Tom Hogan, owner of Federal House in Annapolis, bought Main Ingredient, and that allowed it to develop into the company it is today.
As a full-service café, in-house bakery, and high-demand catering service, all with a growing customer base, it eventually outgrew not only the size of the space it occupied since 1997, but also the name it donned when it was just a catering company. And so, in January 2017, after a yearlong renovation that updated the dining room and catering office and increased the size of the kitchen, Main Ingredient emerged rebranded as Main & Market. The change is intended to bring a more focused understanding of what the business offers. As Main Ingredient, some would know it as just the café and others just the catering. Main & Market speaks to both aspects of the company.
Through all stages of its evolution, Main & Market has maintained its expectations of the customer experience. Turner, who is now vice president of catering, reflects that both arms of the company continue working with vigilance to quality. Ingredients are carefully chosen, delivered daily, and sourced locally whenever possible; everything is prepared in the commissary-sized kitchen on-site; and the staff operates with a mission to be present, friendly, and ensure that every customer feels special, taken care of, and satisfied with a delicious meal.
Walking into the café, a customer often feels welcomed home. There are always familiar faces, such as that of Janet Ormay. Like Turner, Ormay has been with the company for over 20 years, and she is not the only long-standing employee. The decor’s, rustic, earth tones set the mood, allowing customers to sink in to their booths, sip a glass of wine, and enjoy the innovative and refreshing dishes that the menu offers.
Menu offerings include signature dishes such as snickerdoodle French toast, Hungarian mushroom soup, and herb-crusted salmon as well as daily lunch and dinner specials and seasonal favorites. On the bakery side of the café’s operation, favorites include the fresh-baked pumpkin muffins, gooey cinnamon buns, and of course the desserts. The selection changes constantly, but staples include coconut macaroons, eclairs, derby pie, and an assortment of cakes.
The catering side of the operation is only a short walk next door from the café. When clients walk through that door, April Haynes, who has been with the company for more than 10 years, greets you calmly, instilling peace of mind. The waiting room, balanced and filled with decor meant for inspiration, reflects the attention to detail required of the planning process. The open-office floor plan provides an opportunity to see the team at work. By the time they walk into the bright and tidy conference room, clients are ready to discuss their goals.
After a recent event at the Maritime Museum in Annapolis, a museum staffer reached out to Main & Market’s event coordinator, expressing gratitude for and awe of the experience: “It was like five people crawled inside my brain and handled things before I said them . . . they were intuitive, efficient, cheerful, and so much fun to work with.”
Main & Market’s reputation for excellence is reflected in its preferred venue list, which has expanded to include Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Annapolis Maritime Museum, Running Hare Vineyards, and William Paca House. Its catering services also extend to Washington, DC, Baltimore, and the Eastern Shore.
Just as the community has supported Main & Market, it, too, works hard to advocate for its community. The company provides support to organizations such as Hospice of the Chesapeake and YWCA, to ensure that they meet their annual goals. It donates food for events, such as Shells and Bells and hot chocolate for the Jingle Bell Run, and supports local schools as much as possible. This year, it will be catering the Denim and Diamonds event, which attracts upward of 1,200 people.
Main & Market wants you to let the rest of the world melt away as you enjoy dinner with your loved ones. Take your shoes off and dance as if you haven’t a care in the world at your wedding. Socialize with your guests as you all celebrate another year. Simply be you, and the rest will be taken care of—that’s its main focus. █
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