Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
From the Windy City to the Spa City, Turf Catering has deep roots. Owned by Elaine and Brad Wolken, the story of their business starts in Chicago during Prohibition when Brad’s grandfather, Joe, opened a saloon near Wrigley Field where, on the side, he was a bookie. “He got acquainted with racetrack management who offered him concession contracts,” Brad explains. “That was the origin of Turf Catering Company. Within a few years he expanded to working with horse tracks around the country in Illinois, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.”
Joe died in 1965 and his son Larry took over the business. About 10 years later Brad, Elaine, and Brad’s brother Mike got involved and in 1998 the Hot Springs Advertising & Promotion Commission hired Turf to caterer for the Hot Springs Convention Center. By 2015, Turf became exclusive to the Convention Center. Elaine says, “We have always been in the relationship business first and foremost. Everyone on staff, whether related or not, is considered family and our customers have become like family as well.” The customer centric style management as well as the freedom to be creative has inspired the business through the generations.
Brad grew up in Chicago and Elaine in Denver so small-town life was an adjustment, but a welcome one. They continue to live and give in Central Arkansas because of their love for clean water and air as well as the lifelong friends they have made in Hot Springs during the past 46 years. Over and over, friends and colleagues describe the Wolkens as caring which makes their generosity to Levi Hospital a natural fit. “Brad currently serves on the hospital’s board of directors, with Elaine previously serving a number of years, and both he and Elaine work closely with to make sure each year’s annual fundraising event, The Baron’s Ball, is a success and that the food is delicious,” said Jackie Arrison, Vice President for Development at Levi. “Elaine and Brad will be honored for their dedicated service to Levi Hospital by serving as this year’s Honorary Chairs at the event with a theme this year of “Cirque du Vampyre.”