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Tidewater Opens New Cafe

Published Wednesday May 8, 2013

After building an in-demand catering company, Keri Laman, owner of Tidewater Catering Group in Manchester, recently launched her newest venture-Waterworks Caf, a restaurant in Manchester's Millyard District that opened in late February in the Waumbec Building.

A mix of rustic and modern, the caf has a riverside view, exposed brick, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a mix of booths and high tops. Laman describes the menu of the cafe, which seats 50, as classic comfort food with surprising nuances. The caf serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday and features espresso and cappuccino provided by Java Tree, a small-batch roaster also located in the Millyard. The cafe can be rented for evening events.

The caf is the latest destination on Laman's culinary journey. She grew up in New Jersey, but landed in New England when she attended Boston University to pursue a career as a chef. I got the Boston University catalogue and in the middle of it was a female chef. This was 1985. I said, That's different. That's what I want to do.' My dad pointed out I burned toast. I said, That's what school is for', Laman recalls.

After earning a bachelor's in hotel and restaurant administration, Laman worked for several prestigious hotels and restaurants, starting off at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass. as the assistant banquet manager, and eventually being recruited to such venues as the Sheraton Hotel in Nashua (as director of restaurants) and C.R. Sparks in Bedford (as general manager). She then decided to go into business for herself.

I wanted to do something no one else was doing and find a niche for myself, Laman says. In 2000, Laman started Tidewater Hospitality, a consulting company focused on helping small and mid-size hospitality businesses with kitchen design, staffing and business development. She also started getting calls asking her to assist catering operations. In 2003, she converted 2,000 square feet in the Waumbec Mill into a commercial kitchen for what would become Tidewater Catering Group, a full service off-premise catering and event planning company serving NH, Maine and Massachusetts.

Laman took her business to the next level by opening and running cafs for other businesses. Summit Packaging in Manchester was the first to contract with Laman to design a new caf area for its employees. She now runs it.

From there, she landed contracts to run cafs for The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester (a contract she no longer holds), Manchester Community College, McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, and Nashua Community College.

Tidewater Catering Group now has 25 employees, half of whom are full time, caters 20 to 30 events a week and manages four cafs. I am driven by the ability to look at a fiery hoop and figure out how to get through it unscathed, Laman says of managing the challenges that come with catering. Beyond opening the restaurant, she expects Tidewater to continue to grow. I'm not done yet, she says.

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