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An impulse purchase 12 years ago in a London Underground station resulted in the genesis of a Springfield eatery centered around British cuisine.
Carrie Mitchell was visiting England to see sister Amy Gomme and her husband, Neil, and she ate a Cornish pasty, a popular English street food, for the first time.
It was love at first bite.
“I saw something that looked like the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life,” she says of the baked pastry filled with meat and vegetables. “We bought and ate one. It was brand new to me. It was the thing I’d been looking for in terms of a business opportunity.”
Mitchell and Neil Gomme, who has eaten the British staple (pronounced past-ee) all over the U.K., decided to team up and open London Calling, which started in October 2013 as a food truck. By then, Gomme had moved to Springfield with his wife.
“I know what a good pasty tastes like. The ones Carrie makes are a better quality of pasty than the ones in England,” Gomme says, adding all of London Calling’s rotating menu of eight pasties are handmade.
Aside from its pasty roster, London Calling sells shepherd’s pies, sausage rolls and traditional British desserts, such as sticky toffee pudding and banoffee pie, which has a graham cracker crust filled with caramel, bananas and whipped cream. Fish and chips are sold exclusively at Battlefield Mall, where the company has filled space in the food court since 2017. It also has occupied a kitchen and retail kiosk in the South National Avenue Price Cutter supermarket since 2016.
Its mobile eatery settled for a few years in SGF Mobile Food Park at the intersection of Glenstone Avenue and Chestnut Expressway. The park shuttered in 2019 and London Calling moved to Route 66 Food Truck Park. However, it exited the St. Louis Street establishment last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s red double-decker bus is now at its Price Cutter location, where it remains closed to the public pending renovations.
“She’s in need of a little bit of a refresh,” Mitchell says.
The ability to expand to the mall and Price Cutter was based on company revenue growth, the owners say. Since London Calling opened, year-over-year revenue has risen, except for 2020, when it dipped 16% from 2019 as the company navigated the pandemic.
“We were closed for two months in the mall and closed down our location at the food truck park during that time as well. It was always going to be down,” Gomme says, declining to disclose figures.
He says 2021 was a bounce-back year, as revenue was up 46%. The food truck accounts for roughly 50% of sales, followed closely by the mall shop at 40%. The remaining 10% comes from the Price Cutter kiosk, which is where all the products are made. Frozen take-and-bake pasties are available at all company locations.
“2021 was a really strong year, and we’ve started this year doubling the numbers of what we did in the first three months of last year,” he says, noting frozen sales and home deliveries, which started in 2020, are helping fuel the increase.
Mitchell and Gomme say pasty sales have generally exceeded their expectations since day one.
“We set our original goal of 50 a day,” she says. “We thought that would get us through a week and we sold out in two days.”
Seasonal pasties are offered year round, Mitchell says, noting a chicken enchilada version is about to return to the menu, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. Its Cornish pasty with steak, potato, onion and rutabaga, dubbed The Traditional, is the No. 1 seller, Gomme says. That option, as well as the eatery’s bangers and mash and chicken tikka masala, meet the goal of British-leaning pasties.
“Our goal is to bring something British to Missouri and change people’s views on British food,” Gomme says.
Keeping many of the recipes as close as possible to British cuisine can sometimes be a challenge to find ingredients, says Josh Tuning, a supplier for London Calling at Fort Worth, Texas-based food and beverage distributor Ben E. Keith Co. Tuning estimates Gomme and Mitchell receive about 200 cases of ingredients per week.
“There’s not any other flour that works besides this one they make their pasties with,” Tuning says, adding other unique items in their orders include curry, Stilton cheese and cod.
“They won’t use just anything. It has to be the best quality.”
Gomme took the food truck on a rural tour over the winter to smaller Ozarks towns, including Buffalo, Greenfield and Waynesville. It was such a hit with customers that he and Mitchell plan to keep the truck regularly rolling outside Springfield. A second truck will be added later this year to keep up with demand, he said.
“This is how I’m going to structure the business now,” he says. “I’m just going to do a tour and keep rotating and going to all these towns. This strategy is absolutely working, and it makes sense.”
Additionally, the company wants to get its frozen take-and-bake pasties into area groceries, convenience stores and specialty shops within two years.
“We’re trying to find distribution channels for it,” Mitchell says. “There’s lots of opportunities.”
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