Ralfie’s BBQ and Catering opens new kitchen and meeting room in downtown Rochelle
The 302 at 410 Cherry Ave.: ‘It means we can expand and add to our business’
ROCHELLE — As of Oct. 27, Ralfie’s BBQ and Catering officially opened The 302, the business’s new catering kitchen and meeting room at 410 Cherry Ave. in downtown Rochelle, Owners Ralf and Tricia Herrera said Oct. 25.
Ralfie’s BBQ and Catering has been in business since 2009. What started on a small scale of selling kebabs and pork chops became catering a few small weddings a year to now offering full-service catering and serving at 35-40 weddings and more per year. The business outgrew its previous kitchen space and will now have a place to cook, get orders to customers and host gatherings, events and meetings.
“When we came across this building, it was more space than we needed,” Tricia Herrera said. “We had this whole other side of it, and kicked around a lot of ideas. We decided to make it a venue. It's very small and intimate, it's only up to 90 people. It's not a restaurant or anything like that. It's just a place where if you need to have a business meeting, baby or bridal shower or even a family event, it can be done here in this space. It's fully media capable. We had our first event here this week. To us, it means we can expand and add to our business. And it's a centrally-located location for us.”
Ralf Herrera said he’s wanted a kitchen space for about five years. When he was thinking about expanding, he reached out to Tim Bruns of Bruns Construction, who told him he recently purchased the 410 Cherry Ave. building from the City of Rochelle and brought it back into working order after it had been condemned.
“He said it would be an ideal place for us,” Ralf Herrera said. “It was a little big for us, but we still had room over here to expand later. We really needed a 20-by-30 commercial kitchen with some storage space and a garage. That's how it came to be. It was a lot of work. It was a lot of scheduling with contractors and how busy everybody is.”
Tricia Herrera is the executive director of the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce. For 15 years during her involvement with the chamber and the city, she’s been telling people in and around the community that downtown Rochelle is the place to open a business, which is what she and her husband have now done.
“At every chamber event I talk about how exciting it is and how new businesses are opening up,” Tricia Herrera said. “The downtown area really is coming alive and the city has done an amazing job with beautification. This downtown location was ideal for us. This felt like the best home for us.”
The previous kitchen Ralfie’s BBQ and Catering used had some space difficulties when orders became larger, which led the business to rent commercial spaces for cooking, which wasn’t cost-effective. Now, the space on Cherry Avenue will allow for an easier experience for the Herreras and their employees. It will also allow for a pickup location for customers.
Ralf Herrera said his business has been lucky to have “great people” working for it, and thanked them for their work over years of growth. Some have worked for Ralfie’s BBQ through their high school years into college.
“We always say the kids that work for us are our family, and they truly are family to us,” Tricia Herrera said.
The new space will allow for Ralfie’s BBQ and Catering to work more than one event in a day with the bigger capacity. Tricia Herrera said the business is always planning for the future and how it can grow. She believes the potential is simply as hard as they want to work, but putting love and care into their products and customer service will remain their top priorities.
The Herreras were both born and raised in Rochelle, and they said working in and being part of the community is “very special” to them.
“We couldn't do what we do without customers,” Tricia Herrera said. “I know that seems basic, but it's the truth. We always say that we're appreciative of people that order one kebab all the way up to the people that book us for a 500-guest wedding. They're all important to us and we couldn't be more appreciative of that. Customers have now become like friends and family to us. That's just very important to us. This is our community and home. This is where we want to be and we want to share in those events with all of those people.”
The 302 name is in honor of the house number of the home Tricia grew up in. The business’s LLC name is the Herrera BBQ Company in honor of Ralf’s parents, who have both passed away. When the decision came to name the brick and mortar location, the couple chose to honor Tricia’s late parents.
“We lived in Rochelle,” Tricia Herrera said. “My parents raised us primarily in that location. That's very important to Ralf and I, to honor our families. That's who made us. Our work ethic, customer service and people skills all came from our parents. We need to honor that. That was the Wagner house address I was raised in. Like the song says, that was the house that built me.”
At each chamber of commerce ribbon cutting that Tricia Herrera leads for a new business that opens, she states her and the community’s support for the owners. At her and her husband’s own ribbon cutting on Nov. 3, they saw that support from a different perspective.
“Now Ralf and I can see it from the other side,” Tricia said. “We know what that's like to just be supported. And that's very special to us."