Here is the latest installment of South Milwaukee Business Spotlight, a collaboration with the South Milwaukee Community & Business Association where we’ll spotlight a local small business regularly. Businesses are chosen by the SMCBA.
This month, we profile Skyline Catering, owned by South Milwaukeeans Ernie and Kathy Wunsch.
Skyline Catering, Inc.: 5601 South Pennsylvania Avenue, Cudahy, WI 53172
- Our deli is open from 5:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Our catering department is open any time, we do events 24/7 with some exceptions for holidays.
- www.skylinecatering.com. You can find us on Twitter and Facebook as well.
- Founded 1997
- Owners are Ernie & Kathy Wunsch
- 27 employees plus another 35 “on call” for larger event days.
Ernie started in the hotel/restaurant business at the age of 16 in 1977 working for the Samson brothers at Harold’s fine dining at the Red Carpet hotel near the Milwaukee airport. It didn’t take long to realize that he was fascinated by the industry and very interested in pursuing a career in food and beverage . Over the next 20 years Ernie filled almost every position in his craft at country clubs and major hotel chains throughout the country, working with many talented chefs, managers and up & coming staff members.
With a wonderful new marriage to Kathy, our first baby right around the corner and a stroke of luck in the form of Kathy’s company needing me to step up and pull off a catering project, the proverbial light bulb went off above my head and Skyline corporate catering was created in December of 1997. Heck, if I was willing to work unlimited hours for all of my Country Club and Hotel bosses, why not invest those blood, sweat & tears into my own ideas and ventures. It only took twenty years to figure that out!?
Skyline Catering is unique because of our philosophy of treating all of our staff members as family, being genuinely concerned for their needs which I fully believe translates to customer care as well as client and employee retention. Although we have upwards of 400 corporate clients, we as a complete team, know each and every clients particular needs. We Have a saying at Skyline that “The answer is always yes, if it can be thought of, it can be done.” So many customers are used to hearing “no” and “we can’t do that” from other businesses, it’s refreshing for them to hear the word yes and have us find a way to make their vision come true. One other item which isn’t really unique, as many other local businesses do it as well, is that we are very involved in the community, schools, non profits, charities and our armed forces. Giving of ourselves is not only personally very rewarding, but it is a good thing to do for your business if you do it in a sincere way.
Our biggest challenge over the years has been staying part of the conversation or “fresh” if you will. In 1997 there were literally only 10 major catering considerations for corporate or personal catering. People in need always knew the “go to” caterers and mainly used them for their events. I noticed this back then and thought that with the right business model and extra effort, we could eventually compete. It was a constant battle to be a legitimate contender for consideration as a corporate caterer until about 2007. We now believe that we can compete with and exceed the overall experience of any local large establishments. We do this by keeping in tune with our client’s needs, constantly changing our menu ideas, being willing to customize any menu and truly attempt to work within our clients budgets.
We are asked, “What is our biggest opportunity” and I would have to refer to giving back. Being blessed with a great family, outstanding community, dedicated, loyal and talented staff members, fellow entrepreneurs, good decision making and a business model that has tested time, we are grateful for the opportunity to give back and share with others possible encouragement, donations and hope.
We are always researching growth and have grown each year for the past 19 years. My thoughts on growth are not to just jump into something without plenty of due diligence and careful thought on how it will affect your family, finances, health and community. Fast growth adversely affects your customer experience and we don’t want to lose the faith that our clients have in us. New growth needs to be thought of from every angle and not from a singular or selfish point of view.
To me, South Milwaukee is on the edge of a possible breakthrough in development. My family moved to South Milwaukee 9 years ago because we saw a great, close knit community with outstanding services, a top notch school system, and potential for business investment and growth. We have not been disappointed in any way with our new hometown from the top leadership to all of the caring people and wonderful businesses. This city has potential and I am hoping and pushing it to take the next step as best as U can. The only thing I would like to change about our fine city is the way that we sometimes still think of ourselves. We are not that city that other cities smirk at or don’t pay much attention to because they think we are not serious. We are a gem that is about to be discovered and our attitudes need to reflect that. No more living in the past for this family and entrepreneur, it’s time to move forward and be proud of it!
I was asked to list something people would be surprised to know about me and my business. Me…no surprises except maybe the fact that I went to an exclusive private school in 8th grade only (long story) that catered to the wealthy and Hollywood crowd in Los Angeles back in 1975. I even danced with Melissa Gilbert at a class function! Business…what we are told about anything can be accomplished with the right idea, hard work and unbridled passion is true. In 1997, all I had was a credit card with a $2,000 limit, the physical help of a good friend, the support of my family and something I believed in. Hopefully and God willing, Skyline will carry on and be part of this fine community for many years to come.