We had no intentions of opening an event space. When my husband asked me to tour the old, vacant brick building (well, vacant except for the owner's belongings) in late summer 2018, we fully intended to revitalize the space and rent it out to a business. With things on the upswing in downtown Boonville, we saw the potential for additional income.
But somehow, when I walked into the dark, musty space, I saw past all the "stuff" to see potential. Maybe it was my past history as a wedding photographer - I always loved taking photos in the most unlikely places like weeds, outside vacant buildings, and dodgy alleys. Maybe it was my fascination with architecture. Maybe it was because our prior renovation had been on an old, historic building. When I pitched the idea to my husband, I fully expected for him to laugh. Instead, he said, "Let's do it."
If These Walls Could Talk
After what seemed like an eternity of negotiations with the owner of the building (hello, I'm the Queen of Impatient), we finally became the owners of this beast of a building. At more than 9,000 square feet - one larger warehouse space and one smaller, separate office space - the building needed a lot of work. A lot is probably an understatement, especially when my husband and I had just enough experience with power tools to make us dangerous.
The initial plan was to just renovate the back of the larger space to be the venue. After a few weeks of demolition and painting the front space, I decided we needed to be all in or all out. So we dove headfirst into turning the entire warehouse space into the venue.
First step? Tearing down walls. Some were covered with plaster, others paneling, and many drywall. We started with the tasks we could do on our own and relied on some general contractors to do everything else. Next, my son and I hand-scraped every inch of glue that had secured the carpet to the beautiful terrazzo underneath. Yes, thank you 1980s trends for totally destroying beautiful, expensive terrazzo.
So what exactly does one have to do to open a wedding venue? First, we went before Boonville's Planning Commission to ask for a variance on the zoning classification. This was not an easy task. We had to not only prepare a statement and plan for the construction and end result, but we also had to notify all our neighbors within 1,000 feet of our intentions. When we went before the board, one neighbor showed up to ask questions. Luckily, all members voted in favor; one step down.
Next, we went to a bank to discuss our plans and ask for funding. Talk about nerve-wracking. Luckily, my husband is a banker and knew exactly what the financial institution would be looking for, so we were prepared. After the loan officer and bank president came out for a tour, they agreed to loan us the requested amount. (We would later find out the bank president wasn't sure we could accomplish the huge feat.)
The biggest, most daunting task still lay before us - the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's Building Review. We worked with a drafting company to draw up our plans including current layout and what we planned to do with the building. Life and safety, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and several other plans accompanied our statement of intent. We filed the documents electronically and waited...and waited...and waited. Finally, we received the news that the plan was tentatively approved. We could move forward with construction.
Thank You, Next
The next few months were some of the most stressful of my life. Working with construction professionals, we made decisions on all of the un-sexy things such as fire doors, light fixtures, outlet locations, how walls should be framed, HVAC systems, epoxy for the floors, windows, and layouts. Can I please focus on furniture, color schemes, and decor? Thank you, next...
This building will always be a work in progress. Old buildings are finicky like that. But I love this space. Every single detail was made purposefully and with love. When I see people using our space for so many of life's most important events - retirement parties, birthday parties, baby showers, bridal showers, and weddings - it makes me smile.
So, thank you...for choosing us, for encouraging us, for believing in us.