“Say please and thank you. Always.”
Those words of wisdom from Rosemary Kowalski illustrate why she became one of Texas’ most successful female entrepreneurs. Researchers and history buffs will find more insights in her personal and company records, which she recently donated to UTSA Libraries Special Collections.
Kowalski’s career as a catering guru started with catering small private parties in the 1940’s. She went on to become an iconic businesswoman who founded, managed and grew one of the largest and longest running catering firms in San Antonio.
Her company, at the time called Rosemary’s Catering and later rebranded to The RK Group, caught its big break when it was named the official caterer for HemisFair ’68, the only world’s fair to be held in Texas. Four years later, her firm secured an exclusive catering contract at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, an arrangement that still exists today.
Over the decades, Rosemary’s business has served meals to thousands of everyday San Antonians, and she’s also personally served a number of U.S. presidents and other world dignitaries like Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth.
“During our time at HemisFair we did 95% of the parties and we were at The Institute of Texan Cultures two to four times a week,” said Kowalski. “I was a young woman then and I didn’t have much, but I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have my papers with them?’ It’s been a longtime dream of mine to donate my papers to UTSA.”
Rosemary’s collection is comprised of 17 boxes containing appointment calendars, client cards, personal and catering photographs, awards and honors, and personal files ranging from 1959 to 2014. The collection also includes two grade school yearbooks and a childhood scrapbook, which is dated from 1927 to 1941.
“This collection provides a first-hand glimpse into the career of a pioneering business woman, culinary star and civic leader,” said Amy Rushing, head of Special Collections. “Rosemary’s story is an important aspect of the history of San Antonio.”
Established over 70 years ago, The RK Group is a privately held firm based in San Antonio that owns several restaurants and provides off-site corporate catering and event planning in the San Antonio and Austin areas.
The UTSA Libraries Special Collections brings national recognition to the university for distinctive research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas. Collecting priorities include the history of the Mexican American, African American and LGBTQ communities in our region, the history of women and gender in Texas, activism, the Tex-Mex food industry, and urban planning.