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Shannon Malzahn never dreamed she’d be running a thriving catering business. She was wrong, as Lush Lola’s has exploded in popularity for group events in the Detroit Lakes and Fargo area. PAULA QUAM/TRIBUNE

Lush Lola’s expands catering, opens shop

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business Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
(218) 847-9409 customer support
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Lola may be a drunken pig, but she’s the hottest pig in town these days.

Lush Lola’s, a new catering business in the area, is doing so well it now has an event center in the historic Graystone Plaza in Detroit Lakes.

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“We have a boutique space where we’ll have wine and chocolate tasting, and we’ve also got a lot of really unique gift items that are spirits related,” said Shannon Malzahn, who owns and operates Lush Lola’s with her husband, Jim.

Although the catering company known for its boozy menu full of alcohol-soaked meats and simple, hearty sides has itself a busy business now, it wasn’t very long ago that it wasn’t even a thought.

Lola’s beginning

Shannon and Jim Malzahn were content with their hog farm outside of Osage a couple of years ago, going around to community events like farmers markets and fairs, showing off their organic, cooked meats.

“We just cooked things how we liked it, and people seemed to really like it, too,” said Malzahn, who says although they always had fun at the events, the hog farm was not as successful.

Prices were low for hogs and high for feed, which led to their decision to shut it down.

“But we kept doing the community events because we kept having a lot of success with them,” said Malzahn, who says they never gave much of a thought into turning their smoky meats and homemade sauces and spices into a viable business until…

“WE Fest called and wanted to know if we would be a vendor out there,” she smiled, “and when WE Fest calls, you just say yes and figure the rest out later.”

So, they did.  But before their big showing at WE Fest, the Malzahns decided to re-brand their business with a saucy, little name called “Lush Lola’s.”

“We had started cooking more and more with alcohol, and when I changed the name of our braised pork to ‘the drunken pig’ on the menu, people really liked that — it was just kind of fun,” said Malzahn, who admits she’s no trained chef. She’s been cooking for a long time in laid-back kind of style that people have been drawn to.

So when somebody asked the Malzahns if they cater, they thought, why not?

“We had never done it before, but we were used to feeding a lot of people at one time, so we gave it a try,” said Malzahn.

In February, Lush Lola’s did their first wedding show.

“We thought it would go slow and we’d just sort of take on what we could, but that wedding show busted things wide open for us, and it’s been insanity ever since,” said Malzahn, who began booking weddings, graduations and different events all around the region.

She, Jim and two of their three daughters work out of commercial kitchens in Osage and Fargo, with their Fargo market heating up the quickest.

“About half of the events we do now are out of Fargo, but that continues to keep swaying that way,” said Malzahn, who says although they know they have tasty, unique food, the sheer demand for their catering services is surprising them.

“We never expected this,” she laughed.

Although some customers prefer to stick with Lush Lola’s drunken pig (beer braised pork), bourbon-marinated steaks, chicken and beef, the stand-out menu item that keeps people talking long after the event would have to be the whole hog roast.

And yes, this means the entire hog from head to hoof is on display after several hours of slow smoking right there at the event.

“They are as fresh as they get; we get them weekly,” said Malzahn, “We stuff them with sour kraut, put them on our roaster for eight to 12 hours before they’re ready to serve up.”

The Malzahns then carve each slice of pork for guests as they come through the line.

“It’s just so tender and flavorful, and we do the fruit garnish and the whole thing — it’s really a slow spectacle that people seem to love,” she said, adding that Lush Lola’s is pretty booked up throughout the next couple of months.

Malzahn says they will sadly turn people away if they’re booked instead of expanding and leaving an event in the hands of somebody besides Shannon or Jim, as they intend to keep their brand and their quality control very tight with one of them always on site of an event.

The sky is the limit in terms of the amount of people they can feed at one event, however, as four hog roasters gives them the ability to serve thousands of hungry people if they need to.

Their storefront is opening today, and although they don’t cook out of it, they hope the retail space will allow them to handle Lush Lola’s as entire brand.

Bottles of Captain Lola’s Rum BBQ Sauce and Lush Lola’s all-purpose grilling seasoning sit among the other gift items for sale.

“We’ve got those really unique things you can’t find in other stores because it’s one of a kind or made by a local artist, so it’s limited in availability,” said Malzahn, who says if people bring in their own bottle of wine for the wine and chocolate events and leave their cork for future artwork, they will receive a gift certificate.

The eclectic space that’s storefront faces Highway 10 is also available to rent for group events.

Rates are $30 for half a day and $50 for a full day.

For more information on how to book Lush Lola’s for an event or on their gift shop and event center, call Shannon Malzahn at 218-234-2712 or log on to www.lushlolas.com.

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