When retirement becomes a business


Sandy Ross, of Greenville, is supposed to be retired. But that didn’t work out. Instead, her retirement took a Kosher turn. Now she can’t imagine retiring again any time soon.


“I love what I do,” said Ross, who always seems to be smiling. “I’m having a wonderful time.”

Her effervescent personality is well suited to her latest job in the service industry, as a partner in Catering to Tradition, of Providence, a Kosher caterer.

Ross loves to cook. She says she’s always “cooked gourmet at home.” But she never expected to be involved in food service professionally. Instead, her career involved a lot of other things. A Rhode Island native, she grew up in Providence, raised a son and daughter, did some office work, and had a number of jobs in sales, including running an embroidery store, where she sold machines as well as embroidered goods. She also went “on the road” to sell.

Her husband of 51 years, Allen, traveled on business, too. But when his traveling decreased, Ross says she decided she didn’t want to  travel anymore.

“It was about 2003,” she said. “It made sense. I retired.”

But Ross is definitely not one to sit on the couch and, well, embroider.   So, she decided to try something new, and applied for a party planning job at the Smithfield Elks Lodge. She got the job.

It was in that job that she met Andrew Esposito, owner of Local Hero Deli and Catering, in Pawtucket. He became one of three vendors she worked with for the parties at the lodge. “Whenever I used him, there was no hassle,” she said.  His food was delicious and he delivered what he promised, she said.

When Esposito asked for Ross’s help in exploring the Kosher catering business, her next career move was born.

Soon she was offering advice, such as to try Kosher-style first.

It was fun. Challenging. Helpful. And she knew what to do.

Ross and Esposito began working together at Local Hero, catering Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other functions.

In 2014, Catering to Tradition started working out of the kitchen of Congregation Beth Shalom, in Providence, under the supervision of Rabbi Barry Dolinger. In June 2016, they bought Divine Providence Catering, of Providence, owned by Daren Bulley, another Kosher caterer. They are still at Beth Shalom, where they’ve upgraded and enlarged the kitchen and retrained their catering staff. They are now under the supervision of Rhode Island Kosher (formerly the Vaad  Hakashrut of Rhode Island).

Ross is the planner, Esposito is the chef. “I do all the planning,” she said. “I talk to the customer. I know what Andrew does and doesn’t want to cook.” She’s able to guide the customers toward the perfect party menu, and make it look beautiful.

“You have to listen to what people want,” she said.

And while she’s cooked for years, she says she only steps in to help in the kitchen  when necessary.

Ross offers this advice to women who want to begin their own businesses: “Pick something you love and have fun with it.”

Does she think about retirement at all?

“I wonder what I’d do if I retired,” she said. “Half my friends think I’m out of my mind for doing this. As long as it’s fun, I’m going to keep working.”

FRAN OSTENDORF is the editor of The Jewish Voice.