Most people wouldn’t consider owning a catering business akin to leading a circus, but Deborah Lowery does. “Before I ever thought about catering, I wanted to a be a lion tamer,” she says. “But I’m kind of running a circus now.”
Lowery, a New York native and mother of four, has owned and operated Ladyfingers Catering since 1989. One might say that cooking is in her blood; all four of her grandparents were in the food industry. And although her interests led her to study commercial art in college, the tasty world of culinary arts constantly beckoned. Between classes, Lowery held part-time restaurant jobs and helped friends host dinner parties. Soon enough, she says, she realized the money she could make in the restaurant business “far outweighed anything I’d make starting off in something related to my degree.”
However, Lowery’s big light bulb didn’t actually go off until several years later, when she began whipping up dinners for her husband to take to his night-shift factory job. She quickly gained a fan following, as the home-cooked fares were becoming the objects of envy during mealtimes. “Within a few weeks, I was making 50 dinners a night!” she exclaims.
It was then that Lowery knew what she wanted to be doing, so she and her husband opened a bakery/deli, offering the Italian fare she was raised with. But after a divorce and the closing of the store, she was faced with financing her new position as a single mother of two. Working in a restaurant wasn’t conducive to raising children, so she made the bold, life-changing move to start her own business.
The name Ladyfingers honors her Italian heritage and is a nod to the fact that initially, the company was run completely by women: Lowery and her two female employees. Today, her team boasts more than 35 employees, including chefs from around the world. Ladyfingers specializes in authentic, international menus with a Southern charm, of course. Staying true to its Louisville roots, the company has played a role in several well-known community events, including the Kentucky Bourbon Festival for the last 18 years and the Bourbon Classic since its inception.
Lowery also handles catering for smaller affairs, such as company Christmas parties. She recalls one in particular: Her staff was making the food delivery, waiting for an elevator in the lobby of the building where the soiree was located. “When the elevator opened,” she says, “there was Santa – dead on the floor.” There was blood everywhere and her team was, needless to say, in a panic. Thankfully, the party planner arrived almost immediately after the horrific display, explaining that it was a surprise murder-mystery party – the guests, like the caterers, were in for an unforgettable macabre treat.
Lowery has also served celebrities, but she declines to reveal what could very well be tabloid-worthy tales. “Some of the things that came out of their mouths were X-rated,” she laughs.
Though a large part of Ladyfingers’ business comes from big names and corporate clients, it truly is a full-service catering company for all. Lowery is proud to offer everything from catering and bar options to coordination and rentals. “Pretty much anything that has to do with an event, we can assist you with,” she says. Whether clients need an ice sculpture, photo booth, chocolate fountain or wedding cake, Ladyfingers will make it happen. There’s also Gourmet to Go, a service for customers to order party platters ahead of time and pick them up on the day of their event. By the 2017 holiday season, Lowery plans to expand this part of her business so patrons can walk in and purchase Gourmet to Go options at any time without having to place an order.
Also in the near future for Ladyfingers – recipient of Greater Louisville Inc.’s 2016 Small Business of the Year Award – are changes to its home on Old Henry Road. Lowery says that after being in the building for about eight years, the company has outgrown it. An addition will make more room for Gourmet to Go’s expansion as well as upgraded menu selections and interactive stations. Though big changes are in store, the best part about running Ladyfingers has, and likely will always be, the same. “After all the hard work and the job is done,” Lowery says, “it’s getting a note about how we made someone’s day so much more special. It makes us all feel good.” VT
For more information, visit ladyfingersinc.com or call 502.245.7734.