Sugar Grove Sisters Run Bustling Family Business

Sisters Deanna Kuzminski and Donna Clark are partners in Catering Plus, LLC, the catering business their mother and a friend started in the early 80s. Submitted photo

It is doubtful Gladys Chase had any thought of starting a catering business when she prepared the food and baked and decorated the wedding cake for her daughter Joy’s wedding in 1977.

“When cousins started getting married it was ‘call Aunt Gladys,'” says daughter Donna Clark.

Mrs. Chase began Catering Plus, LLC with her friend, Fayth Coughlin, a few years later, after realizing the need for a local catering business in the Sugar Grove-Warren area. Donna bought Mrs. Coughlin’s portion of the business in the early 2000s. Her sister, Deanna Kuzminski, purchased the other half when their mother made the decision to retire in 2009.

The three sisters remember living in the same house with a mother who spent many hours preparing candy, desserts and meals to sell to the public.

Another sister, Joy Blair of St. Clairsville, Ohio tells about watching her mother smooth fondant over a cake on a turntable while decorating it.

“She could whip out a quarter sheet cake, frost, decorate and be done with it in five minutes. None of us got the knack,” says Donna. Although the sisters say Joy and Deanna had to fill in a couple of times as their mother gave directions.

The sisters told of the time when their father, Alton Chase, pretended to drop a two-layer cake and how “that was the end of him helping to deliver.” They, also, remember their mother having to hit the brakes with a cake in the back seat, to avoid hitting a pedestrian who had crossed before her and say she always carried a bit of frosting and tips for last minute repairs. They can laugh now when they tell about forgetting to take plates for Deanna’s daughter’s wedding.

There was a difference of opinions as to how their mom started cooking. Joy thinks her mother, being one of the youngest children, cooked meals after the older ones got jobs.

“Mom always encouraged us to cook,” Donna says.

“She always had a big yellow Pyrex bowl mixing up cookies,” Deanna puts in.

“We’d measure, crack eggs or whatever,” adds Donna.

Joy remembers finding dinner instructions when she came home from school when her mother worked at Lakewood Super Duper. “We’ve always been in the kitchen,” she says, “all of us.”

They talk about the years when the elder business partners made Easter candy, cakes and cookies and how it started with Fayth taking a tray to share with her co-workers at Blair Corporation.

“Mom had always made candy for our family,” Joy remembers. “The people (at Blair) wanted to buy it.” The original partners ended up buying 700 pounds of chocolate in Buffalo and hand-formed, hand-dipped and packaged maple, butter pecan, peanut butter and coconut and raspberry, cherry, vanilla and fruit and nut eggs, as well as molded chocolates and pretzel suckers. This went on for years.

Deanna recalls her mother rising at 6 a.m. to dip the candy filling the daughters had helped form the night before, leaving them to dry overnight. She also remembers Fayth coming home from work each day with more orders.

Gladys Chase was making Easter and Christmas candy until she passed away at 79 years of age on Dec. 6, 2017 while helping her daughters in the basement kitchen.

Today both sisters share cooking, serving and setting up for the business in which they partner. Donna shops and takes care of bookkeeping and Deanna bakes the desserts and cleans the kitchen.

“I’m in charge,” laughs Donna.

“I prefer to be in the background,” Deanna retorts.

Their mother and Fayth’s business grew gradually and with no debt. The setting was more casual until Donna became involved when she talked her mother into purchasing a van for deliveries.

“We do lots of chicken barbecues in the summer for towns, class reunions, barn-raisings and family reunions and weddings,” Donna shares. “We do baby and bridal showers and retirement dinners.”

Since 2003 or 2004 they have been catering lunch and dinner meals at retreats at a bed and breakfast on the Chautauqua Institution grounds, which worked into catering sit-down dinners every other Sunday for one family and dinners of five to twenty guests three times per week for another family on the grounds.

The busy sisters are currently booked for nearly 20 weddings for 2018. They do breakfasts and lunches for various businesses from Warren to Corry and various functions in Chautauqua County. They have catered lunches for the Warren Kiwanis Club for approximately 16 years.

“About 11 or 12 years ago, one of the members from the Kiwanis Club asked if we would be interested in cooking three meals per day for eight weeks for the Boy Scout Camp at Camp Olmstead in Scandia. Me, being one that liked a challenge, I didn’t want to turn business down.” They are currently serving 200-225 people three meals per day six days per week at the camp.

They have prepared meals for many years for the Warren Shakespeare Club, the longest consecutively running Shakespeare Club in America, who often provide the recipes they would like prepared, sometimes recipes for the entire meal. These dinners are served at Women’s Club of Warren and include water glasses, wine glasses and bread and butter plates.

All three women agree they are very family-oriented. Their mother came from a family of twelve children and their father’s family had ten children. Their parents grew-up in Lander and Youngsville, Pennsylvania and both families still continue annual reunions. They remember huge family reunions with 100 people present. The Shaffer Family, Mrs. Chase’s side, including some of her surviving siblings, still celebrate Christmas together.

All three sisters enjoy camping and kayaking with their families. Deanna and Donna are avid bowlers, who say “we got that from our mom” and add that all three sisters bowled in high school. Deanna has two daughters and eight grandchildren and Joy is the mother of four children and the grandmother to seven.

The Blonde Brownies recipe shared was a dessert Mrs. Chase made when the girls and their only brother, Alton Chase Jr., were children. The recipe came from their father’s side of the family.

Catering Plus, LLC is located at 10 Dennigan Lane in Sugar Grove. Their number is (814) 730-5976.

Blonde Brownies

1/2 c shortening, melted

1 T water

1 c brown sugar

1 egg

1 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp soda

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix melted shortening, water, brown sugar and egg until well blended. Add flour, salt, baking powder and soda, mixing until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spray a 9×9 baking pan with baking spray. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes and until toothpick comes out clean.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

6 T butter, divided

4 T garlic, minced

8 oz bag spinach

2 cans artichokes, drained

3 T flour

1 1/2 c milk

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 c Feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 c Parmesan cheese

3/4 c Monteray Jack cheese, grated and divided

In a large skillet, melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic, stirring for one minute. Add spinach and cook till wilted. Remove spinach and squeeze juice back into the pan. Add artichokes and cook until liquid cooks off and artichokes are light brown in color. Remove artichokes and set aside.

Add 3 Tbsp, butter to pan. After butter is melted, whisk in flour. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add milk, stirring and cooking until slightly thickened. Add cream cheese, feta, parmesan and 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese. Lower heat and cook till cheeses are melted. Meanwhile, coarsely chop artichokes and spinach and add to pan. Stir to combine. Pour into a baking dish and top with 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes till hot and bubbly. Serve with crackers or pita chips.

French Dressing

1 c sugar

1/2 c cider vinegar

3/4 c vegetable oil

3/4 c ketchup

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp dried onion flakes

2 tsp parsley flakes

2 tsp dill weed

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate. Makes 1 pint.

Fluffy Pink Punch

2 c cranberry juice

1 c orange juice

1/2 c lemon juice

1/2 c sugar

2 c raspberry sherbet

1liter ginger ale

In punch bowl stir together juices and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Spoon sherbet into bowl and stir till combined. Slowly pour ginger ale down side of punch bowl.

Peanut Butter Texas Sheet Cake

2 c sugar

1 tsp soda

2 c flour

1 tsp salt

2 sticks butter

1 c peanut butter

1 c water

1/2 c milk,

1 tsp vanilla,

2 eggs

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, soda, flour and salt. In a saucepan, bring margarine, peanut butter and water to a boil. Pour hot mixture over dry mixture and combine. Add milk, vanilla and eggs. Mix well. Pour into greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan and frost with frosting below.

Frosting

1 stick butter

1/2 c peanut butter

6 T milk

2 c powdered sugar

In a saucepan, bring butter, peanut butter and milk to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar & combine. Pour over cooled cake.

Tomato Tarts

1 sheet Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry

Olive oil

1/2 c grated white Cheddar cheese

4 or 5 Italian plum tomatoes, cut into †-inch slices

Salt and pepper

2 T fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

Approximately 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Thaw pastry for 20 minutes. Unfold pastry on counter. Cut all of pastry with a 1¢-2″ biscuit cutter. Place the puff pastry rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Prick the surface of the pastry with a fork. Brush each round lightly with olive oil and top with a small amount of cheese and then with a tomato slice. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomato, then sprinkle on a pinch of thyme and about 1teaspoon of Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving. Makes about 24 tarts, depending on the size of the biscuit cutter.

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