COLUMBIA — When Kasey Ryan filed for divorce in January, she knew her life would be different. After 8 years of marriage, she would be supporting her family — Elle, 10; Abram, 8; Brian, 6; and Tucker, 2 — alone. At the time, Ryan was working as a court reporter, but after some soul-searching, she decided to make a change.
“It’s pretty hard when you have children,” Ryan said. “Working an eight to five job and having kids, even if you’re married, it’s still a struggle. At most jobs, you are gonna hear it if you get a call about your child having a fever and you have to leave. With four, and going to be a single parent, I knew that I didn’t want that stress in my life.”
Taking The Chef Connection, her catering business, full time seemed to be the answer.
“I kind of made my resolution that I’m not gonna do anything but this.” Ryan said. “I’m not doing anything anymore but catering because it’s what I love.”
Ryan had already been catering part-time for many years. She’d started out selling candies — mouthwatering treats such as dark chocolate cherries and toffee — at places such Poppy and Hemingway’s. Then it evolved into catering events for Kraft Foods and the Missouri Symphony Society. With this new jump — which includes a new store front at 22 N. Ninth Street — Ryan only expects to see exponential growth. She has a 20-page menu of items that she’ll cater, not that she expects to use it.
“I’ve used that menu probably three times,” Ryan said. “Usually, we start talking about whatever else they’d want and we can accommodate that.”
And that customer service is part of the hallmark of Ryan’s business philosophy.
“I really like to meet one-on-one with the customer ... talk about the budget, talk what we’re working with, talk about what they have in their head,” Ryan said. “If it’s not on the menu, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done."
Ryan expects her store front to open this week. A “Coming Soon” signs hang in her window. Her 1947 Magic Chef model gas stove stands waiting for her first skillet, pot or saucepan. And the entire Ryan clan is excited about the endeavor.
“My daughter keeps asking if she gets to work down there and things like that.” Ryan said. “She wants to go decorate and everything.”
Her new family, the members of the Columbia Church of Christ, are just as excited.
“I’m excited that it’s so close to campus,” MU student ShaJuanda Campbell said. “I’ve already started making plans to come by and say hi and to see if I can help out.”
Residents also show interest in Ryan's business.
“I think it will be nice to have a place to go and hang out and have dessert close to the Blue Note,” Columbia resident Jim Olson said.
After years of considering the commitment, Ryan joined their congregation and was baptized on Sept. 20.
“That’s something that I have been working towards for years, my relationship with God,” Ryan said.
While she was married, her husband objected and made going to church very difficult. After the divorce, nothing was standing in Ryan’s way.
“I’m a new disciple of God, and I’m just so excited with that," Ryan said. “I’m putting him in control and he’s doing amazing things. None of this would have been possible without him.”
Beyond just inspiration, she’s seeing help in tangible ways. Her new church family has been helping her with everything from babysitting to getting her storefront ready. The singles of the church spent a Friday night cleaning, organizing and working in her store so that it would be ready for her opening.
"There’s a lot of resources and connections available to her now because of members who own their own businesses,”Columbia resident Seth Mechlin said. “We’re all ready to jump in and help in any way possible.”
Mechlin has been taking care of most of the store’s carpentry, plumbing and electrical needs.
Tracy Sines, the owner of NeoGraphics, agrees. He created the signs advertising the shop's opening. “I am excited to see how her store’s going to grow in the great location.”
Ryan is banking on success. Even though it’s three big changes in one year, Ryan is optimistic about the future.
“It’s exciting and scary all at the same time,” Ryan said. “I pray about it. That’s what I do.”
“I pray about it all the time, and so I think God will work it out,” she said.