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Q&A with Skip Moerschbacher, proprietor of Hoag’s Catering, on changes for the business

by on March 01, 2018 1:24 PM

Hoag’s Catering has evolved from a part-time venture in 1947 to a 24/7 business, and now is beginning a new chapter.

More than 70 years ago, Bill Moerschbacher Sr., a politician and a banker, started catering part-time along the way in Bellefonte. His son Bill became his partner in the early 1960s and pushed Hoag’s to become a full-time business. Skip Moerschbacher partnered with his brother in 1979, and became a sole proprietor in 1986. Hoag’s moved to Celebration Hall on Commercial Boulevard in State College in 1992.

But Hoag’s hosted its last event at Celebration Hall, a wedding reception, on December 30, 2017. This January, Celebration Hall was sold to Unity Church of Jesus Christ as Hoag’s has decided to focus its business on off-site catering and party rentals.

Hoag's has since been leasing kitchen space at Celebration Hall, as work on its new kitchen at the former Corning building is being completed.

Hoag’s employs 15 to 30 people, depending upon the time of year (March through December is busiest).

Moerschbacher discussed Hoag’s new business model and the company’s history with Town&Gown.

T&G: Why did you decide to sell Celebration Hall and shift your business model to focus on catering off-site events?

Moerschbacher: I decided to sell Celebration Hall for retirement planning reasons because of my age. It is a process to sell commercial real estate and I didn’t want to be dealing with it if my health was an issue. I also felt that with the number of off-site facilities available to us today vs. 25 years ago, we could perhaps maintain a good portion of the work we did at Celebration Hall at these venues.

T&G: Tell us about your plans for the kitchen at the former Corning building. How is the transition going?

Moerschbacher: Our new kitchen is a 5,000-square-foot facility. It is a little larger than our old kitchen and will allow us to showcase our rental business on a retail level better. Our business office will be larger and our planning space will be much more professional. We expect to be in operation in mid-March. The transition has been complicated by delays in the construction process. It took us months to get a building permit, causing the delay in moving. We planned to be the new kitchen at the end of 2017.

T&G: What is the most unusual or memorable event you’ve catered?

Moerschbacher: The most unusual event I have catered would have to be Penn State Football banquets for 2,000-plus guests back in the late ’80s. We catered them in the old Greenberg indoor sports complex ice skating rink. We did the equipment rental as well as the catering and the sheer size of the event was very challenging. We had to rent the Bellefonte High School cafeteria kitchen because of the amount of food required. As we grew in the ’90s and early 2000s, it wasn’t unusual for us to do four or five wedding receptions on a given Saturday. These Saturdays were by far more difficult to accomplish than a single event for 2,000. Tailgate weekends are another challenge because of the number of events in a short period of time. After 70 years in business, there are many events that made it hard to sleep the night before.

T&G: What are your most requested menu items?

Moerschbacher: Our most requested menu items would have to be luncheons and barbecues. I had five brothers and sisters who grew up in our family catering business and we all would have to say that our chicken barbecues had to be our customers’ favorites. We had the capability of cooking thousands of halves of chicken over charcoal using flip racks for events that became our early trademark. We added pig roasts to our menus back in the early ’80s that remain a local favorite in our area.

Everything that my business has accomplished over the years could not have been done without the thousands of employees that have worked for us. These people have given more than they realize towards the success of this business.

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Mark Brackenbury is editorial director of Town&Gown.


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