After making the move from Nashua to Manchester, Celebrations Distinctive Catering and Celebrations Kitchen owner Fred Manheck said they kept things fairly quiet for their first few months.
“We did not want to stretch our resources and we wanted to work out some of the bugs in opening a restaurant so we took our time,” he said. “I think there was enough time in between to allow us to perfect some recipes and stabilize what we’re doing here.”
Earlier this month, Celebrations hosted a ribbon-cutting at the restaurant and catering commissary on Second Street in Manchester.
Unlike many companies that are restaurant first with catering on the side, Celebrations is securely set as a catering company that has a restaurant on the side, and Manheck plans to keep it that way.
“Maybe half the building, maybe even a little more than half, is a dedicated catering commissary,” he said. “Whereas the front ... is the restaurant, seating for 25.”
In Nashua, Celebrations Distinctive Catering was not open to the public, as it was exclusively off-premise catering. Now the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“Now we’re open to the public and we’re already starting to see the benefit of that. We’re busy,” he said.
Incorporating a restaurant into the business opened doors for Manheck and the Celebrations staff to cook in a manner that wasn’t possible on a catering scale. For example, now they can cure their own meat.
“We actually smoke our own ham, and make our own pastrami, cook our own corned beef. We roast turkeys from scratch,” he said.
They also make their own bacon, taking pork bellies and curing then smoking them.
“We didn’t do it before and honestly I don’t do it for catering either because it’s just too much,” he said.
He estimated that they average making 75 to 100 pounds of bacon every week and a half, and the whole process takes almost two weeks.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel in the restaurant, but we want to just give people a home-cooked experience and we think that’s different from most of what’s on this street,” he said.
Celebrations Distinctive Catering, Manheck’s longtime Nashua-based company, was forced to find a new home when its place on Main Street was set to be torn down by the church that owns the property. As he began to look around for a suitable space, Manheck recalled the former Amato’s on Second Street.
“I looked at this space a couple of times even before the move and my first thought was that it was big, too big, because where we came from was very small,” he said.
The restaurant had been vacant for about four years and a number of changes were needed before moving in. The main dining area stayed pretty much the same, aside from some redecorating and rearranging, but Manheck said they essentially built what is now the catering kitchen in the back of the building. As a way to mark the progress, two sets of photos are on display in the center of the restaurant, showing the before and after images of the building’s interior.
While he didn’t set out to move the business to Manchester (he’s lived in Nashua since 1963 and still has offices there), Manheck said that he kept coming back to the Second Street space, especially with the potential for adding on a restaurant in mind. In the end, the right combination of factors came together to bring Celebrations to Manchester.
“What do they call that, serendipitous?” he said.