Still special, but more affordable

All relationships are personal to chef-owner Catie Fairbanks-Cliffe, who runs Magnolia’s Cafe and catering service in South Portland’s Mill Creek.

So it is no surprise that Fairbanks-Cliffe offers to show her catering clients how to throw a party on a budget, when many companies announced plans to cut back or cancel annual celebrations for employees.

When one client’s corporate Christmas bash got canceled, Fairbanks-Cliffe organized a less costly, catered brunch, complete with homemade pastries and orange juice served in champagne glasses.

Instead of the traditional lobster dinners at another office party, she offered to fix lobster rolls and French bread crustinis. Fairbanks-Cliffe said she helped her client spend half as much on the company Christmas party.

“What I hear from clients is that they don’t want to splurge but they still want to do something nice for employees,” said Fairbanks-Cliffe, who runs her storefront lunch spot at 103 Ocean St.

Magnolia’s opened in May 2007 and attracts a following for its Southern-influenced dishes that also are healthy.

– Linda Hersey

Business plan: Giving back

Whether it’s offering free five-minute massages to shoppers who buy gift certificates or low rates on yoga classes through December, Soma Massage & Wellness owner Julie Wright says her theme through the holidays has been to “give and receive.”

She has used that message as her slogan in holiday e-mails sent to loyal customers who visit her South Portland shop. It seems to work.

“We are staying very busy,” said Wright, who recently expanded Soma’s services to include acupuncture, yoga classes, polarity therapy and other wellness programs.

Business used to be just so-so at Soma – but not anymore. The economy has worsened but Soma has found a niche in South Portland. Soma struggled when it first opened a few years ago as a home furnishings shop. Wright offered massage therapy in a wellness area at the back of the store. But it was not the focus of the shop.

Wright changed Soma to a wellness center about six months ago. She started providing affordable massage therapy as a centerpiece of her services at 6 Cottage Road. Customers responded, and the shop now has a large open room for yoga classes and other wellness programs.

Wright said that keeping services affordable follows the mission of her business, which is to help people lead healthy lives, no matter what their budget.

– Linda Hersey

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