New Venues Ride on Event Wave
Numbers don’t lie. Last year, more than 3.3 million visitors made trips to the region, many of them here to attend events. It’s a number that has grown a steady 4.5 percent annually since 2006.
It’s no surprise that new event-friendly venues have popped up to meet the increased demand.
According to Allison Beers, owner of Events North, the event industry has been bolstered by corporate clients now able to entertain and educate on a larger scale.
“With the economy on the uptick, we’re seeing businesses back to hosting events as they did pre-2008,” said Beers, whose company coordinates corporate, non-profit, and social events as well as weddings and other family events.
Beers says she does not believe the market is oversaturated by some of the newer spaces on the block.
“A little healthy competition keeps rental rates competitive, challenges venues to keep up with the latest technology and keeps operational staffs on their A-game because poor service could cost them repeat business,” she said.
Beers and her team typically look at several venues for each client.
“It’s great to have options and weigh the pros and cons for each to make sure the venue perfectly matches the client’s set goals,” Beers said.
Here’s a roundup of some of the newer spaces on the block:
The Corner Loft
201 E. Front Street
The Corner Loft is an upscale event space on the top floor of the former Federico’s Design Jewelers’ building at Front and Cass. Since its purchase in 2011, it’s been fully renovated and offers views of downtown Traverse City and views of West Bay.
Building owners Marie Schwartz and her husband Jeff purchased the century-old building after Fifth Third Bank took ownership from the jewelry store. They opened for business last October.
Uses include weddings, corporate events and team building, family celebrations, fundraisers, retirement parties, graduations, and more.
“It’s doing very well,” Marie Schwartz told the TCBN in January. “We’ve had a lot of bookings for weddings and/or receptions, a senior prom, bridal showers, the Comedy Fest and Film Fest … I’ve had a lot of parties already and people have been very complimentary.”
One particularly attractive aspect, she said, is couples can get married and have their reception in the same place.
“They can get married, go down to the bay for pictures and come back for the reception,” she said. “No one has to drive anywhere and guests can walk around downtown.”
As of January, Schwartz was getting several inquires a day for weddings. The Corner Loft can accommodate up to 128 guests.
ECCO Event Space
121 E. Front St. Suite 102-B
You might recall going to the movies or roller-skating here once upon a time. The basement-level Fun Factory has been renovated and, since 2011, has been the setting for elegant receptions, dinners, product launches, fashion shows, trade events and more. It accommodates up to 319 guests.
“It’s like a blank canvas allowing guests to create a truly custom, memorable and unique event experience,” said Venue Rental Manager Madeline Begley of Events to Remember.
Traverse City Art and Design Studios
Opened last spring, the 3,500-sq.-ft. art gallery can be rented for any size function.
“It’s a big open space that can be used for just about anything,” said interior designer Carol Buck of the sprawling 5,000-sq. ft. building she shares with photographer Mark O’Shaughnessy.
Buck and O’Shaughnessy’s studios are housed inside, but the gallery mainly serves as a gathering spot for artist openings.
Though the pair has done some marketing, the space pretty much sells itself, Buck said.
“We’ll have 150 people on a Friday night with an artist here,” Buck said. “So a lot of people see the space, they like it and (will rent it) if they want something a little bit different. The background of art is nice for them.”
The venue is also highly accessible, she said, since a ramp and accessible restrooms were added.
140 E. Front St.
Studio Anatomy is a studio, gallery and events venue in Front Street Commons’ lower level (formerly Good News Music). Since opening in November of 2012, the studio has hosted private film screenings, craft shows, yoga classes and stand-up comedy shows, the latter of which are now held on a regular basis “due to popular demand,” said co-owner Brian Chamberlain.
“Studio Anatomy is definitely a unique venue, as well as business model,” he said. “Our primary concentration has been our recording studio, which specializes in offering affordable recording production services to the community.”
He and mixed media artist Jennifer Culberson regularly hold all-ages concerts that allow younger audiences to be part of the local music scene.
“It provides them with a fun and safe alternative to connect with friends,” he said. “Music is our main focus and we love having a venue for the community to use to broadcast their work to individuals who are open to original musical ideas.”
205 Lake Ave.
Om Cafe is a vegan/vegetarian/macrobiotic restaurant housed in the century-old former Loading Dock building.
After 9 p.m., the dining room closes and can be opened up to private parties, said cafe owner/operator Jason Thibodeau. The cafÃ© can also be used Sunday night and all day Monday and Tuesday for parties up to 140 guests. Guest access would include the adjacent bar, the Parlor TC.
The bar itself is open Wednesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight, and open for hosting small private parties (approximately 45 people).
“Very soon we will take over even more space to accommodate more people,” said Thibodeau who runs the cafe with Ryan MacManus.
The Lotus Room
237 E. Front St.
Asian/fusion favorite Red Ginger uses its second-floor for all-day business meetings, client appreciation dinners, special occasion events and sporting events. The Lotus Room also hosts a variety of themed dinners that feature five courses specially created by Chef Dan Marsh, along with wine, cocktail, and microbrew pairings selected by their beverage director.
Bookings overall are on the rise, said Special Events Coordinator Adanna Bustance.
“We’ve seen an increase in conference group dinner outings, rehearsal dinners and special occasion events,” she said, adding to accommodate the increase, they recently created a new event space with a gourmet kitchen, private patio with views of the bay, and seating for 24 guests.
eatatginger.com/news/ for upcoming events
Brengman Brothers at Crain Hill Vineyards
9720 S. Center Highway
Crain Hill Vineyards has a tasting room that features a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace and is the setting for a growing number of weddings and events at Edward and Robert Brengman’s 11-year-old vineyard in Elmwood Township.
It’s also Michigan’s first “Net-Zero” winery, with the ability to capture and repurpose energy and water.
The indoors and outdoors can be combined to accommodate groups of up to 170.
“This is our third summer and we get more and more requests all time,” said Event Manager Lauren Bulliss. “We’re almost full for this summer except for a couple of weekends here and there.”
The vineyard’s location to Traverse City is a huge plus, she said.
“We’re only seven miles from downtown, so it’s close for shuttles,” Bulliss said.
229 Garland St.
While not a brand new event venue, 2014 is bringing changes to one of the largest art galleries in the Midwest.
Mike Curths says he plans to expand the patio area and add two large glass garage doors “to bring the OutsideIn.”
He’ll also expand the bar area to include more than 100 whiskeys and is working on a food truck that will be parked outside the business.
“We’re working on our 1964 Avion travel trailer for our new kitchen, La Vie Desante: Globally Inspired Cuisine,” he said about the venture, which means “the dance of life” in French. “Our hours will expand in the spring and we’ll continue to have entertainment every day of the week. Look for more national touring acts along with our amazing local and regional shows.”