WENDI'S STORY Ever since I was a young girl, I have always had a passion for food (especially comfort food). This all began when I first learned about toasting marshmallows when I was two years old; and then learning to prepare food on the grill as a teenager in a large family; and then holding jobs in the working food service industry while growing up. When you are used to such a big family in a small house, you learn to live off the land and the food that it blesses you with.
Much of what I learned about catering came during the twelve years I worked at the Longaberger Company (which created baskets). I worked in multiple positions in the company, eventually taking over their banquet and catering facility. This experience taught about handling food costs, and how to manage an event from beginning to end. It was truly a working education. In my next position, I moved to Columbus and worked for an Applebee’s Restaurant, which taught me more about how to do high volume food preparation in a fast paced environment.
A few years later, I needed a break and stepped back for a few months to decide my career path. That's when I ran into Mary Lou Callander. (Mary Lou knew me from my days at Longaberger; I had originally met her there.) At the time I was handling a baby shower for a friend, and there she recognized me and asked me what type of work I was doing. I told her I was taking a break from everything to think, and was currently cleaning apartments. She was disappointed to hear that I was not catering, because she knew it was something that I loved and that I did it well. Before I knew it, Mary Lou had hired me to cater events at her home, as well as at the Thirsty Turtle, a tavern she owned at that time. It was during this time, that I also began operating a mobile concession unit and sold a variety of dishes and sandwiches at local events. It was a huge success!
Wendi Wagner, Age 10
When I asked Mary Lou for suggestions on what to name my business, I’ll never forget her response: “Duh? Wendi’s Wagon!” With my last name being Wagner, and already having a mobile kitchen unit, to her it was a no-brainer! Mary Lou believed in me, and I would not be here today if it were not for her.
My business began to grow, and more catering opportunities with new clients began to open up. On one day we fed 1,200 people, three different meals in two locations in less than twelve hours. It was amazing! It wasn’t long after that I was introduced to Kevin Gorham from the Pizza Cottage, who had built a dream kitchen in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. He had built this by taking over part of an operation that had closed down, and it was perfect for our needs despite the distance from Columbus and our central Ohio catering events. We made it work and spent a lot of time on the road.
When the economy took a hit in 2009, it impacted the catering business. That’s when we decided to open a carry-out restaurant at our operations center at Buckeye Lake. From that point on we slowly started picking up more corporate catering clients, in addition to private events such as wedding receptions and holiday parties. At this point we realized that we needed a more central location in Columbus.
Old 40 Tavern
Then I was introduced to Chip Brooks of Old 40 Tavern in Bexley, Ohio. We helped them get their kitchen up and running while still catering our own events. Our company just kept growing and growing with new clients, including corporate catering clients, with no advertising whatsoever. It was an exciting time! Not long after, the opportunity came along to partner in opening up a full kitchen for catering production and carry-out services. With the amazing acquisition of the kitchen equipment from Kevin Gorham in Buckeye Lake, and some major expansion and renovation, we are pleased to offer true, comfort food from Wendi’s Kitchen, along with many other types of food options, all made from only the freshest ingredients. Wendi's Kitchen & Catering has grown to become one of the most popular catering companies in Columbus and Central Ohio.
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