Once-vaunted Crystal Catering gets new owners

The owner of Crystal Catering in Carmel, once the largest caterer in the Indianapolis area, is selling the rights to the business after it was largely dismantled by the previous operator.

Jack Bayt is transferring ownership to Crystal head chef Matt Schwartz and T.K. Nelson, a director and general manager.

Bayt and his brother Dan founded Crystal in 1981 and grew it into a multimillion-dollar operation before selling it to Fishers-based Marsh Supermarkets Inc. in 1995. But Florida-based Sun Capital Partners closed the catering business following its purchase of Marsh in 2006.

In 2007, the last full year Crystal operated under Sun Capital, it had $19 million in revenue and employed 425 full-time and 875 part-time workers, ranking it the largest caterer in the area, according to IBJ statistics.

An acquaintance of Bayt’s ultimately bought the assets of Crystal, which included a building, from Sun Capital and sold it back to Bayt for a mere dollar, he said.

Crystal existed in name only until about 18 months ago, when Nelson and Schwartz re-launched catering operations. Now that the two have proven themselves, Bayt is ready to hand them the reins to the company.

The ownership transfer should be completed by the end of the year, Bayt said.

“I gave them the rights to use the name and ultimately buy the operations,” he said. “There was really nothing to sell. It was just a name.”

Crystal Catering has nearly doubled revenue in the past two years, with sales rising from $750,000 in 2010 to $1.2 million last year, according to IBJ statistics. It has 10 full-time and 65 part-time employees.

Bayt, who owns Riverwalk Banquet Center in Broad Ripple and is facilities manager of the Indiana Roof Ballroom, is taking on another project. He’s joined former Indianapolis Colts player Gary Padjen as a partner in The Crane Bay Event Center.

Padjen took control of the building at 551 Merrill St., formerly owned by Indianapolis-based Home Stove Realty, in August 2011.

The formerly vacant 18,000-square-foot building near Lucas Oil Stadium hosted several Super Bowl-related events and parties (see video below).

Additional renovations, including a stone patio and outdoor fireplace, as well as a new sound system and lighting, are expected to be finished in November.

Crystal will cater events at Crane Bay.

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