Catering, concession business Lush Lola’s finds its niche
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.”
Business profile \
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