Simply Sensational: Guntown woman finds catering career satisfying

GUNTOWN – Hope Jones started her catering business, Simply Sensational, five years ago in a man-cave-turned-commercial-kitchen beside her small house in the Pratts community.

It wasn’t long before she outgrew that space.

So in January 2012, she and her husband, Chet, moved to a larger home in Guntown where she had more room to spread out.

“There was this old dairy barn beside the house that you couldn’t see for all the trees and brush,” she said. “It hadn’t been used as anything for years. When I saw it, my mind was churning. I kept thinking, ‘What can I do with that?’ Finally, I saw it as an opportunity to expand my business.”

The cinder block barn still had stanchions – posts used for milking cows – and the floor wasn’t level, so that the barn could be hosed out daily and not have water standing in it.

“We came in and poured concrete to level the floor, put windows in, hung tin on the ceiling and left the exposed rafters, so that you’d still have a barn look,” Jones said. She painted and decorated, added two bathrooms, and hung chandeliers about.

And she named it Serendipity.

“I call it that because it was just kind of found,” Jones said. “I didn’t come here to this house because of this.”

But she’s glad she did, because it has allowed her to focus on what she really enjoys – catering.

“My favorite part is catering weddings,” she said, “because I like to see it all come together. I like to step back when it’s all done and say, ‘That looks really good.’”

She also does showers, birthday parties, receptions, engagement parties, business lunches and private events. And she still makes time to do cakes, which is how she got started in the food business to begin with.

“I may do 20 birthday cakes in a weekend,” Jones said. “They’re your bread and butter, but they’re time-consuming. I’d like to cut down on that kind of stuff and do more of the bigger-type things.”

Second movie deal

And by bigger-type things, she means jobs like catering three meals a day on a movie set for 22 days in May.

Jones is providing the food for the cast and crew of the American Family Studios movie, “I Am Potential,” a true story adapted from a book of the same name about Patrick Henry Hughes, who was born without the ability to see or straighten his arms and legs.

The movie, filmed in and around Tupelo and in the home the Joneses lease in Guntown, is set to be released sometime in 2014.

“I went last summer and catered in Kentucky with the same company and when they got ready to film this year, they called me back,” Jones said. “They asked if I would cater and then they asked if they could use the house for the movie. So we had to move out of the house for three weeks while they filmed.”

Jones estimates she’s feeding about 60 people per meal. Filming is set to wrap up at the end of this week.

“There are a lot of healthy eaters and some dietary requirements, like allergies or gluten-free needs,” she said. “I started with things everybody likes – a taco and fajita bar, grilled chicken and veggies, chicken spaghetti. One night, I had cream-style corn and they said, ‘What is that?’ But they loved it.”

She also sneaked in a few old-fashioned standbys.

“They really like cornbread,” she said. “I have to throw in a few Southern things – I mean, they’re in the South. It would be an injustice if they didn’t have some sweet tea and cornbread.”

The 28-year-old said her business has really picked up the past couple of years.

“I’m more successful than I ever thought I would be,” she said. “I never thought this is something I’d be doing as a career. It’s stressful at times, but any job is stressful at times. Some people get high off drugs and alcohol. For me, it’s this. You have all this adrenaline and then, when it’s over, it’s like, ‘Whew!’”

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

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