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Surrounded by barbecue — Arrowhead Catering expands

June 22, 2012 in Events, Features, News, Opinion

Arrowhead Catering has become a fixture around Casper. From the Crossroads ballpark to Hogadon, the Casper Speedway to Casper Mountain Trail Center, the familiar red shirts can be found everywhere.

Ron and Ellen Strang have their hands full operating concessions all over town as well as managing about 15 other catering events a month. “From 2,200 people to 12, we’ll do it all,” Ron said.

The business started by helping friends with weddings their children were having. From there it expanded to catering others weddings and events. “It’s totally gone nuts from there,” Strang said. He’s been operating on a part-time basis since 2000, and switched to full-time in 2009.

In an economy like this, brides and grooms are trying to get the most value for their dollar, and Strang helps them find it. “I’m half caterer and half wedding planner.”

He said he takes his brides by the hand and helps them with referrals to other vendors. “The whole thing I’m trying to get across is, as a company, I’m there to work for them.” He also claims he can put together an entire wedding in an hour. “With my Droid in my hand, I can do anything.”

Arrowhead Catering boasts an all-inclusive price. While other companies may charge extra for plates, flatware, and a set-up fee, Strang includes it all. “The only exception is if we go outside of Natrona County, there’s a set-up fee unless it’s a large group. Sometimes you have to bend a little.”

His catering business gained notoriety around his beef brisket. “It’s because of low temperature cooking and the 12-hour smoking, plus we serve it sliced not chopped. People go crazy for the onion Kaiser roll as well. It’s not a sloppy Joe.” Strang also makes his own barbecue sauce which he described as “not as spicy as it is sweet. It’s a little sweeter and yet savory at the same time.”

There are plenty of choices for meats and sides, and Strang will work with any menu requests clients may have. Typically a plate will include a meat, choice of four cold salads, western beans and a drink of choice.

He can prepare everything except brisket on site. He has a fleet of vehicles, the most popular is a red ambulance which is used to transport tables and dry goods. The workhorse of the group is a fully self-contained kitchen in a trailer that he calls “Big Red.” Strang can set up anywhere; he’s even catered a cow branding in the middle of a field. “We don’t need electrical hook-ups or running water, its all in the trailer.”

The City of Casper approached him about running the restaurant at the Nordic Ski Lodge two years ago, and it’s proven to be profitable for both. It was a natural course of action to ask about the concessions at Hogadon as well. Last year Arrowhead Catering took over the cafeteria at Hogadon and Strang said, “It’s better than ever.” With menu items like a prime rib sandwich, free refills on soda, homemade brownies and chili cheese fries, it’s a step above standard concession food.

Once again, the city approached Stang and asked him to coordinate the renting of the ski lodge and maintain it through the summer. He asked if he could operate a steak house out of it, and they agreed. The Steakhouse at Hogadon was born.

Every Friday and Saturday night, the doors open to the aromas of steaks grilling and the sound of live music. “I’ve kept it to acoustical acts because I want people to be able to hold a conversation as well.” There are two levels to the lodge. The upper level is serving as a lounge where patrons can relax and listen to the music. The lower level is filled with tables, where patrons can enjoy the view of Casper from atop the mountain.

New entertainment features are planned, Painted Past productions will be presenting improvisational theater on June 16 and a mystery dinner on Aug. 18.

Strang has a favorite event. He caters for “Camp P.O.S.T.C.A.R.D.” — Police Officers Striving To Create And Reinforce Dreams — for the entire week they’re on the mountain. It’s a summer camp where children with unique challenges are invited by members of law enforcement to spend a week at a summer camp run by law enforcement personnel. “Sometimes the first day or two some of the kids have stomach problems because they aren’t used to getting good food on a regular basis.” Strang said it’s always an event that leaves him feeling good.

Surrounded by barbecue all of the time, Strang prefers to eat “anything I don’t have to cook,” but his favorite is Chinese food. There was one time he made 750 grilled chicken breasts for an event. “It was a long time before I would eat grilled chicken after that.”

Strang has a theory that reasonable prices, treating his customers right and good food will keep the business busy. “I want to make a million dollars, but I don’t want to make it from one person.”

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