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Iconic Birds Hill business reaches 50-year milestone

Posted: June 8, 2020

 
Iconic Birds Hill business reaches 50-year milestone

 
A trivia question for you – what do the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Pope’s visit to Birds Hill Park, Folklorama, Winnipeg International Air Show, Festival du Voyageur, Labatt Brier, Pan Am Games, Tournament of Aces, TELUS Cup, LPGA and probably your cousin’s wedding all have in common?

Here’s a hint – their connection is related to their good taste.

Give up?

The answer is they’ve all feasted on the incredible food prepared by East St. Paul’s Ludwick Catering Ltd., located in the heart of Birds Hill at the corner of Hoddinott and Birds Hill Road. The iconic business celebrated 50 years in business last month.

For Carole Aitkenhead, who’s been there since the day her parents, Rose and Stan Ludwick held their grand opening on May 23, 1970, the passage of time is a little hard to believe.

"When I sit back and think 50 years, wow, it’s truly unbelievable,” Aitkenhead laughed.

And while the list of those who’ve dined on her family’s perogies, cabbage rolls, sandwiches and all the rest is impressive, Aitkenhead says it’s the day to day that’s important, and the high standards the business has maintained over five decades.

"One year sort of runs into the next, and we’ve done some pretty amazing things, usually one or two amazing events each year. The rest of the year is just normal and I’m proud of the fact that our business has sustained for 50 years,” she said.

"My passion is in feeding people of course, but what I really like about it is the involvement with the public, pleasing people, having the respect of the community and getting involved in sporting events or fundraising events. Just being part of community life.”

The Ludwick family has certainly done that, providing food for weddings with 200 people on a Saturday night to feeding breakfast and lunch for 100 people over seven days during the LPGA’s event at the St. Charles Country Club in the fall of 2010.

The 1984 Papal visit at Birds Hill Park required all staff to be there the night prior, simply due to the massive number of people who would be attending. Everyone slept in the structure they’d set up at the park and Aitkenhead says she has "many humourous memories,” from that night.

She said there’s not that much difference between catering a 200-person event or a 2,000-person event – it’s all just time management.

"There really is no difference if you prepare five pounds of potato salad or you make a hundred pounds of potato salad…it’s the same quantity of food that you require just increasing it gradually to get your end result,” she said.

"It’s the time frame… you look at a contract and say, is it feasible? Meaning that if I needed a thousand pounds of potato salad, how much time do I need to prepare that along with what else they need and can I do it in that time period? In serving the masses, it’s the time schedule required to actually put that job together.”

Ludwick Catering has employed   hundreds of people over the years, and Aitkenhead said it’s challenging because much of the work is part time and on evenings and weekends. That means that every member of her family has helped out at one time or another during the last 50 years.

"Our business dealings have always had an effect on family affairs – at 10 days old, my oldest child Ryan slept in a cradle beside our big oven many days while I conducted business,” Aitkenhead said.

Stan Ludwick passed away in 1997; Carole’s husband, Brian, an integral part of the business, passed away in 1994. Her son Ryan joined her in managing the business in 2012 and her other son, James, is the CEO of Perfect Perogies, a partner business they started in 2005 with Lawrence Porhownik and Joel Cote. Aitkenhead’s best friend, Susan Semeniuk has been Ludwick’s office manager since 1998.

Mom Rose suffered a stroke in 2018 and lost her ability to speak. Aitkenhead says she recognizes everyone and is being well cared for at the Holy Family Care Facility. Having spent 50 years working with her family has been special.

"Having worked alongside my mom and mentor Rose, my quiet and efficient dad, Stan, my husband and ‘my rock’, Brian, my two sons, the meticulous Ryan and the marketing James – I hold all dear and near to my heart,” she said.

No one would have been better prepared to host a fantastic 50th anniversary celebration, but COVID-19 has put that party on hold, along with any other events Ludwick was set to cater this summer.

Aitkenhead, like the rest of the world, is doing her best to ride it out, offering curb side pick up and doing her best to give some of her employees some work.

"I don’t know if it’s difficult or it’s unbelievable,” she says when asked if this is the toughest of the business’s 50 years.

"I try not to let Covid-19 consume me but can’t help wondering what’s in store for our future business. But the fact remains, every business on this planet is wondering the same thing.

"You have to be optimistic and hopeful that business will come back, and I know business will come back, we just don’t know how long this will last.”

Congratulations to the Ludwick Catering Ltd. family. 

 
      
 


Pictures: 
  • Carole, flanked by sons James, left, and Ryan, right, inside Ludwick Catering,
    their family business that celebrated 50 years on May 23.
  • Ludwick Catering Ltd., logo, and the original version.
 

 

 

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