Catering, concession business Lush Lola’s finds its niche
By Sherri Richards on Jul 16, 2014 – read more
FARGO – When WE Fest came calling in 2012 seeking a food vendor for one of the music festival’s campgrounds, Shannon Malzahn knew she needed to say yes.
She had just created the Drunken Pig, her now-signature beer-braised pork shoulder topped with rum barbecue sauce. She thought it was the right time to reinvent her family business.
In a month’s time, she developed new products and a new name – Lush Lola’s, a reference to the use of alcohol in cooking and the large ceramic piggy bank she calls Lola that adorns their food stand.
“As soon as we said yes, it hit like a ton of bricks,” said Malzahn, of Osage, Minn.
Their catering calendar for the next year filled almost immediately. She left her full-time job in 2013, and her husband, Jim Malzahn, did the same this June.
They now cater weddings, picnics and other events, largely in Fargo and Detroit Lakes, Minn., booking events as far as 18 months in advance.
They also have a storefront event center in Detroit Lakes that can be rented for parties or meetings.
Besides catering, they do festivals around Minnesota and North Dakota, and recently bought a new mobile kitchen. This will be their third year at WE Fest and second at the Fargo Street Fair, which runs today through Saturday.
Lush Lola’s has also been selling food at the Rockin’ the Rourke concert series in Moorhead, and will be at the Roots on the Red on Sept. 6-7 at Bluestem and the Junk Market on Sept. 19-20 at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.
Shannon and Jim began doing event concessions in 2008 as an offshoot of their farming operation raising hogs. They kept doing events after they got out of farming in 2011.
Shannon grew up working at her mom’s food stand at regional festivals and at the Minnesota State Fair, where she learned the importance of customer service.
Neither Jim nor Shannon identifies themselves as a chef. They stress they have no plans to open a restaurant.
“We like to have fun and cook food,” Jim said.
Their catering menu includes a whole hog roast, a backyard cookout and fajita bar. They also offer beer-braised meat sandwiches, like the Slathered Pig, Tipsy Cow and Wobbly Chicken.
They do their food preparation out of Square One Kitchen in Fargo. Casey Steele, owner of the commercial kitchen space, describes them as a true family-owned business, noting the Malzahns’ daughters help out a lot.
“It’s been cool to watch them take off,” Steele said. “I think they’ve found a good niche in the catering community that wasn’t filled here.”
Jed Pahan with the Downtown Community Partnership, which organizes the Street Fair, said their barbecue food is gourmet and unique.
“It’s exciting to feature local entrepreneurs, especially with the quality of their food,” Pahan said. “They’re just wonderful people to work with, as well.”
What: Lush Lola’s Ownership: Jim and Shannon Malzahn Where: Lush Lola’s has an event center at 113 Graystone Plaza, Detroit Lakes, Minn. Kitchen operations are at Square One Kitchen, 1407 1st Ave. N., Fargo Contact: (218) 234-2712 Online: www.lushlolas.com
Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556
Osage family offers unique catering service
by Barbie Porter of the Frazee-Vergas Forum
Drunken pigs, tipsy cows and wobbly chicken sandwiches are as delicious and fun as they sound and are made by Osage residents Shannon and Jim Malzahn.
The Malzahns recently opened Lush Lola’s catering service and have commercial kitchens in Osage and Fargo.
Shannon and her husband have full-time jobs and the catering service is something they do in their free time, usually on weekends and holidays.
“Because it is something we do in our free time it is important to make it a fun event,” Shannon added.
Customers get to choose the menu from Lush Lola’s specialty items, such as:
• Drunken pig, which is slow cooked beer-braised pork topped with their signature Captain Morgan barbecue sauce.
• Tipsy cow, which is beef rubbed with a spicy blend of seasonings and then braised in beer with green peppers and onions.
• Wobbly Chicken, which is rubbed with a spicy mix of seasonings and garlic and then braised in beer.
“We’ve also added shrimp boils, pitchfork fondues and whole pig roasts,” Shannon shared, noting the pig roasts and pitchfork fondues add a great deal of excitement and entertainment to special events.
“Jim has roasted hogs before, but he is mentoring under a person who has been doing it for 30 years,” Shannon shared.
By learning how to become a true roast master, Jim has learned how to do a full roast (with the pig’s head still on), offer a full fruit garnish with the roast and even a few carving tricks of the trade.
The Lush Lola’s crew, which includes Shannon, Jim and their three children, Madison, 13, Mckenna, 11, and Magnolia, 4, are available to serve groups of 50 to 5,000 across the lakes area and Fargo for as little as $8 per plate.
For more information: www.lushlolas.com, 234-2712 or email, email@example.com.
Lush Lola’s will be part of the M State open house Wednesday, Jan. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Childhood years working in concession stands pays off
Growing up Shannon spent many summers working at her mother’s concession stand, which sold fudge puppies.
“She was the first to make those, so I learned how to market a product to people that they’d never heard of,” Shannon noted.
“Working there I really learned a lot about managing a stand and working with food. It was a tremendous learning experience.”
For years Shannon and her husband raised and sold pork. To sell the product sometimes she’d offer concessions at events, so people could taste the meat, which in a way lead to Lush Lola’s catering.
She began experimenting with recipes and found a talent for creating recipes with alcohol.
“It’s funny too, because neither Jim nor I drink much, but it really gives the sauces we put on the meat a distinct, delicious flavor,” she said.
After signature sauces were developed, people raved and craved for second helpings at events that were supposed to help her sell the hog farm meat. Then she got a call from WE Fest asking if she’d be interested in setting up a food booth in a campground at the country music festival known for drawing more than 50,000 people.
“When you get a call from WE Fest, you say ‘yes’ and figure out the details later,” Shannon shared. “I’d been toying with the idea of changing names, and we’d been thinking of getting out of the hog farm business, so it all just seemed to be perfect timing to dive in.”
Shannon and Jim made the full transition from a hog farm to catering business last fall and opened an office at the incubator site at M State of Detroit Lakes, which has helped them learn the business side of things.
They arrived at the name Lush Lola’s after coming across a piggy bank at a German festival.
“I instantly loved it, but the owner said it was not for sale,” Shannon said. “Finally the owner relented and I just started calling it Lola and adding ‘lush’ seemed to work.”