A Joy Wallace Catering, Design & Special Events

Helping clients celebrate in style as Miami’s catering and event design firm
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Sean Barr

Since 1988 A Joy Wallace Catering, Design & Special Events (AJW), a renowned catering, floral and event design firm located in South Miami, has been surpassing client’s wildest dreams and expectations. “I stand behind my word and I’m going to give my customer more than they ever dreamed for their event; it’s our pleasure and passion to do that,” says Joy Wallace, founder, president and CEO of AJW. “We’ve worked really hard to build AJW into what the company is today, but at our core we’re still the local small business that just loves to feed and nurture people.”

It’s this wow factor that has made the company known throughout Miami and nationwide. Weddings, social, philanthropic and corporate parties and more — AJW does it all, delivering more than 450 events annually. AJW has deeply rooted industry connections and expertise, gained over decades of self-made success in the event business.

A self-made industry icon

When Joy moved to Miami, she had never visited the city before. “My husband and I moved our family to Miami when he landed a job,” she recounts. “I stayed home and raised our two children, which I’m so happy that I did.”

As her children grew into young adults and her husband lost his job, things started to change. “I wanted to and had to go to work, so I started looking for part-time employment through various agencies,” says Joy. “Though I found opportunities, I never came across a job I truly enjoyed.”

One day, while sifting through a handout, Joy came across Florida International University and its degree program in hospitality management. “I didn’t know you could get paid to design and host events,” she says. “We’d always hosted big parties and gatherings at our home, but it never dawned on me that hiring someone was an option.”

Joy decided to take a leap of faith and went on to earn a degree in hospitality management. “After college, my counselor helped me get a job at the Miami Club, a high-end men’s business club where all of the movers and shakers in Miami — the builders, the developers, real estate icons and businessmen — went to relax,” she recounts. “It was a great opportunity for me to meet many people of influence.”

Before long Joy was running all of the catering and events at the club: weddings and birthday parties, bat mitzvahs — the works. “After some time, I felt this would be something I’d like to do beyond just the club, so I decided leave and start my own small catering company,” she says.

What she thought would start as a small company quickly launched with a major customer. “I got a call saying the people from Citgo Oil were trying to find me, since I’d left the Miami Club,” she shares. “They called me and asked if they could send me a 50 percent deposit so I would hold a date. I was incredibly surprised, but reassured that I’d found my calling and I was on the right path.”

Shortly after incorporating, AJW catered this 1,800-person, five-course dinner and Joy used the money to launch the business. “It was a huge success,” she says.

The right team, the right place

Over the years, various setbacks such as the recession have slowed business for AJW, but Joy says the company’s reputation for going above and beyond keeps the phones ringing. She says one of her greatest strengths is hiring the right kind of people, which has also allowed AJW to flourish in an ever-changing industry.

“In 2000, we added the design team, allowing us to expand our floral and décor event capabilities and broaden our business relationships,” she says. “In 2003, we were presented the opportunity to become the in-house foodservice provider and operate the beautiful Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Café & Gift Shop.”

For more than 12 years, AJW has built its partnership with the Vizcaya Museum. This includes the design and creation of an elegant café menu and even the procurement of one-of-a-kind gifts sold at the shop. The café menu features fresh salads, sandwiches, homemade sweets and wines from the local Deering Vineyard.

AJW hosts seasonal events the Vizcaya Museum, such as the Tea on the Terrace program in the fall and winter and the Sangria Summer program in spring and summer. The weekly events overlook the scenic Biscayne Bay and partygoers get to sip Vizcaya signature teas and sangria, plus enjoy small bites such as freshly baked lemon-lavender scones and artisan breads.

The company has a number of different preferred venues, including locations in Boca Raton, Coconut Grove, downtown Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and more. If the event calls for a tropical botanical garden or a fine art gallery as the setting, AJW can cater to any number of specs.

Passion that never stops

As AJW has grown, the company has added another division, again going above the call to serve others. “We started Disaster Relief Catering division and are now one of few catering companies with full turnkey site abilities in Florida, helping those in need when disaster strikes,” says Joy.

After years of getting the business up and running, Joy is still actively involved, but today provides more oversight. “We’re all like family here and we’re devoted to each other and our customers,” she says. “I’m here to encourage and praise our staff. Essentially I’m the mom again. I motivate, train, nurture, lead and challenge when I think it’s necessary.”

Joy says she is lucky to have found a calling that is driven by passion and daily excitement. “I love the atmosphere of booking and hosting events,” she says. “It’s always rewarding. You’re literally making a difference in people’s lives.” After 27 years in business, A Joy Wallace Catering, Design & Special Event continues to be the face of Miami and south Florida’s catering scene, delivering dependable quality and awe-inspiring events.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Diamonette Party Rental