Ted-Vice Chairman-Versailles (Ohio)Poultry Days
Julie-Associate Services-Subaru of Indiana Automotive
Bob-Notre Dame Irish Youth Hockey League
For over 50 years Nelson’s has been serving Indiana and Michigan with the finest barbecued products.
As a manager of a small poultry processing plant in Wakarusa, Indiana, during the depression Nelson Gongwer continuously toyed with new and innovative ways to promote poultry products. He was convinced that there was a better way to cook large quantities of chicken while still maintaining the high quality only found in “grandma’s” kitchen. Weekend after weekend, he labored over makeshift grills, trying to determine a means to automate the grill while also improving the quality of the end product. Eventually, in 1967, Nelson accomplished exactly what he had set out to do, and the Port-A-Pit® system and Nelson’s™ Food Service Corporation were born. After years of persistence, Nelson had simplified his hobby of entertaining guests while promoting poultry and also had, more importantly, created the process that would soon make Nelson’s a household name throughout northern Indiana.
By the 1980’s, Nelson’s was the premier food service business in northern Indiana. Under the leadership of Dean Gongwer, Nelson’s son, the company was preparing more than 500,000 halves of chicken annually at fundraisers, corporate caterings, and other special events in Indiana and Michigan. Capitalizing on a two-part market niche that includes premium products and unique production efficiencies, Nelson’s has always provided its customers with a rare combination of quality and quantity. For example, Nelson’s can feed 7,500 people a delicious, all-you-can-eat meal using only three people to cook the meat. Traditional catering companies, conversely, may require 20 to 30 people to cook for this size of a group.
Dean’s son, Tad Nelson Gongwer took over the third generation family owned company in 1997 and has continued the tradition of quality and inventive business thinking with putting an emphasis on the catering division. Nelson’s now serves over 1,200,000 halves of chicken through its fundraising and catering services from Indianapolis to Northern Michigan every year. Serving groups from 10 to 40,000 and being the only food concessionaire at large outdoor events with attendances up to 250,000 people.