John and Irene Zaruka (Carjonga) grew up in Babylon and attended West Babylon Schools starting at South Bay Elementary and graduating from WB High School in 1969.
John’s was an idyllic childhood with his wonderful parents Bill and Alice. He lettered in four sports at West Babylon while maintaining an advanced course load. He was a member of the first golf team and has the honor of hitting the first shot in that program, (maybe into the lake?).
John began his hospitality career at Cedar Beach where his parents had a beach concession and golf course. Along with John, many other local kids got their first job at “Cedar” where they learned work ethic and the basics of business, guest service and, of course, surfing and golf. He loved the hospitality industry and was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Cornell University Hotel School, graduating in
1973. Immediately after graduation, John went to work for Winegardner and Hammons operating hotels throughout the US. His first assignment was in Boise, Idaho, where he met his love, Linda.
In 1984, the Zarukas decided to move back west and, in 1986, purchased their own business, a failing restaurant at a public golf course. The business plan was to develop a banquet only business and to deliver quality food to the golfers. Starting with no guests and no employees, the Wedgewood Wedding and Banquet Center brand is now the largest banquet chain in the country, with over thirty facilities hosting nearly ten thousand events a year with $50 million in revenue and employing over 700 employees in five states. The Wedgewood is a family enterprise. Son Bill joined the company full time in 2002 and as President, has overseen this rapid expansion and daughter Stacy resides as the General Manager of the original Wedgewood where she has worked for 25 years.
The Zaruka family believes in sharing their success. For more than thirty years, they have become well known philanthropists in Ventura County, contributing time, money, and effort raising millions of dollars for charities such as FoodShare, Boys and Girls Club, Ventura County Medical Foundation, the Unforgettables Foundation, and the Turning Point Foundation. John is Director Emeritus of the California Restaurant Association, a 30 year member and Past President of his Rotary Club, and a FoodShare Director. He is currently President of the Tower Club of Oxnard.
John and Linda currently reside in Camarillo, California, but John still considers 17 Ross
Road as his home base. Alice still lives there as she has for all of John’s 64 years.