The Belfast Company that Catered to Quarantine
How Trillium Caterers shifted from working weddings to creating fancy meals to enjoy at home.
Planning a wedding can be like putting together a puzzle where the tabletop is moving and the pieces in your hand keep changing shape, and everyone expects the end product to be good enough to hang in a museum. Last year COVID-19 flipped the table over.
By early April, Abigale Avey and Michael Casby, who own Trillium Caterers in Belfast, realized 2020 would not go as planned. Clients were canceling or postponing their weddings, and Avey and Casby needed to come up with a way to keep their staff employed. Then it hit Avey. “It was literally like a bolt of lightning,” she says. “Not that it was an original or creative idea, but every aspect of it, from the branding to the website, I feel like it all hit me at once, and I was like vibrating and couldn’t get the ideas out of me and on paper fast enough.”
The idea was Trilly, a to-go catering service that prepares and delivers meals people can finish in under 30 minutes at home. The thoughtfully designed packaging includes instructions on how to finish, plate, and garnish dishes, such as Moroccan shrimp with jeweled couscous and a locally sourced kale salad with grapes, sunflower seeds, slivers of aged cheddar, and candied pepita brittle for topping. On Thursday afternoons, Trilly delivers to customers in towns on the midcoast, from Searsport to Rockland, or people can pick up their orders from the company in Belfast. Along with meals, Trilly offers house-made sauces, condiments, dips, and other accompaniments, wine, and bottled cocktails.
The venture embraces a phrase that Casby and Avey frequently say to each other at home: be fancy to yourself. When restaurants were only open for takeout, Avey wanted to be able to give people the experience of having a beautiful, plated meal. “Once we started doing it, we really believed in it,” she says. “We have the same customers coming back week after week and ordering hundreds of dollars of food.”
Revenue from Trilly is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the $1.2 million in loss catering sales for 2020, Avey says, but along with Paycheck Protection Program loans and HospitalityMaine grants, the new venture has allowed the company to retain its four full-time employees without cutting pay. Since most of Trillium’s catering clients are people from out of state getting married in Maine, an unexpected benefit of Trilly is that more locals have the opportunity to try their food, Avey says.
With more weddings and events planned for 2021, the catering side of the business is expecting a busy season, but Avey says Trilly is here to stay. “I don’t think it will just be business as usual when we have our regular lives back,” she says. “I think people will find value in some of these new ways of doing things, and to me that’s progress.”