By Robert Channick
For Sue Gin, a pioneering Chicago entrepreneur, big ideas came from humble origins. After she was served a half-frozen sweet roll on a Midway Airlines flight, she decided she could do better than the typical airline fare foisted on passengers. And so she did, launching Flying Food Group, a Chicago-based catering company that has taken airline food to new heights.
That success was one of many for Ms. Gin, an Aurora-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, whose career path took her from Playboy bunny to real estate investor, from acclaimed restaurateur to international airline caterer, breaking down barriers and inspiring many along the way.
“She always experienced sexism and racism and discrimination, and overcame it always,” said Hedy Ratner, a longtime friend and founder of the Women’s Business Development Center. “She looked at everything as a challenge, not as a barrier.”
Ms. Gin, 73, a much-admired leader in the Chicago business community, died Friday morning at Rush University Medical Center after suffering a stroke Tuesday at her Chicago office.
Ms. Gin launched Flying Food Group in 1983 with a single catering kitchen at Chicago’s Midway Airport and one airline customer — the now-defunct Midway Airlines.
She built it into a network of 20 catering kitchens from Honolulu to New York servicing more than 70 airlines. Last year, Flying Food Group generated revenue of $436 million, according to the company.
As president and founder of New Management Ltd., Ms. Gin also managed and developed an extensive Chicago-area real estate portfolio.
The company’s holdings include a 50-acre business center near Midway, West Loop properties and other residential and commercial developments.
Ms. Gin began working as a 10-year-old at her family’s Chinese restaurant in Aurora, the Paradise Inn, after the death of her father.
The youngest of three siblings, she handled the cash register, worked on the menu and helped purchase orders while her uncle ran the operation. That early experience shaped a career defined by hard work, innovation and tenacity.