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70 Years of Creative Innovation

One Call Does It All at The RK Group

Written by: Rachel Coon
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70 Years of Creative Innovation

Like all great things, Rosemary’s Catering found its humble beginnings in barbecue and beer—at Uncle Ben’s Diner on San Antonio’s west side. It was 1946 and Rosemary Kowalski was running the show. It didn’t take long for word to get out of Rosemary’s remarkable fare and soon she was catering weddings and parties for family and friends. The self-made businesswoman thrived through the 1950s and ’60s, and in 1968, when the World’s Fair came to town, Rosemary was asked to cater the event. Rosemary’s Catering had already made a name for itself in the Alamo City, but the World’s Fair experience locked in the legend that became The RK Group.

Today, “one call does it all” is the motto of the full-service event company comprised of Rosemary’s Catering; Flair Floral; Illusions Tents, Rentals & Event Designs; The RKD Studio; and Circa DMC. A one-stop shop for wedding couples and businesses planning parties and events, The RK Group is known for its creative direction and innovation and can handle every single detail of an event from the planning, catering, rentals, and décor to entertainment, lighting, transportation, and destination management. “We like to tell clients we can do as much as they need or as little as they need,” says Sonya Villarreal, director of sales with Rosemary’s Catering. “They might just go to Flair for centerpieces or rent chiavari chairs at Illusions, but we cross-sell all the time, so when they’re at Illusions renting their tables and chairs, we’ll ask if they’ve booked a caterer and we’ll introduce them to our catering team.”

Like Rosemary’s humble catering beginnings, The RK Group’s impressive breadth grew from its matriarch’s own personal collection of treasures. “If you ask Rosemary, she’ll tell you: with each party, she would put money aside and sometimes she’d go to Mexico to buy pottery or she would purchase a copper or stainless steel chafing dish. She grew her inventory until she had a lot of her own items.” In time, family, friends, and friendly competitors were asking if they could rent her dishes or her china, and that’s how The RK Group evolved. “She realized it could be a whole other business,” Sonya says of what became Illusions, which has provided distinctive event rentals, décor, and design services for more than 30 years and now fills a 50,000-square-foot warehouse with an in-house floral group, event production team, and even a champion ice carver.

For nearly four decades, Rosemary's son Greg Kowalski has served as president and CEO, overseeing the various branches of his mother’s event empire. And under his leadership, the company just keeps growing and staying ahead of the curve. The sales team stays involved locally but also nationally, attending conferences and educating themselves on everything from catering to destination event management. The culinary team reads, travels, and visits and is always hiring fresh, young team members to bring in the latest culinary trends. Two new divisions have also become part of The RK Group’s repertoire of business ventures—The RKD Studio, which can now address clients’ print and digital marketing needs, and Circa DMC, which handles destination management for groups, including everything from catering and dining to entertainment and transportation.

When asked whether The RK Group has what it takes to continue its stand against the test of time, Sonya doesn’t hesitate: “Definitely.” The well-established event company has remained successful for 70 years, and now, the third generation of the family is involved in day-to-day operations. But what truly distinguishes The RK Group from others, Sonya says, is service. “We are extremely service oriented. All of our divisions work as a team, so our internal resources are endless because we have each other to pull from and lean on. Plus, we stay ahead of the trends and we do have, because of our size, access to incredible quantities of equipment. We can accommodate events of every kind.”

 

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