Photographers, planners and other Central Ohio wedding vendors are getting into the venue game.
| Columbus Monthly
As the owner of the wedding and event planning company The Planning Bee, Karima Crawford enjoys nothing more than thinking about, dreaming up and mapping out weddings.
“I love the aspect that comes along with it: the clients, and being able to work with people to execute an event, and [seeing] everybody happy,” says Crawford, who soon will not only help engaged couples plot out their day but also provide an ideal space for vows to be exchanged, photos to be taken and cake to be consumed.
While continuing to oversee The Planning Bee, Crawford will soon open a new wedding and event venue called Genesis Downtown. Located on the ground floor of the Standard building on the corner of Long and Fourth streets in Downtown Columbus, the new venue is co-owned by Crawford and hospitality industry veteran Taylor Keene. With floor-to-ceiling windows allowing natural light to stream in and chandeliers that are tasteful but not ostentatious, the two designed a stylish Downtown aesthetic that is flexible for parties of any size.
Crawford sees opening her own wedding venue as the culmination of her years of working with couples as a planner. “It’s always been a goal of mine to own a venue,” she says. “Owning an event space was kind of like the cherry on top for me.”
And Crawford is far from the only one: Across the Central Ohio wedding scene, numerous vendors are opening their own venues. They describe the move as a logical one; after all, those who plan, photograph or provide other goods or services at weddings are likely to know something about what makes a venue good or bad.
“We’re educated [about weddings], and we care about making the experience better,” says photographer Christene Logesky, who, with her husband, Andrew, opened the event venue 1883 Locale in Reynoldsburg in 2021. The pair had already been photographing weddings as Andrew and Chrissy Photography since 2012.
“A lot of times, venues open up and they don’t have the experience of the day-to-day details of a wedding,” Logesky says. “Why is this bridal suite so small? And why is there no storage? And why isn’t there a plating room?”
Logesky has a personal connection to the building that now houses 1883 Locale, which was formerly home to Connell Hardware: For decades, her family had owned a restaurant, Vick’s Pizza, in a neighboring building. “I actually grew up next to the [Connell] building, and have been in and out of the building my whole life,” she says.
Then, several years ago, Vick’s relocated its operations to the ground floor of the Connell building. Meanwhile, the upstairs portion sat unused. When Logesky and her husband decided to open their own venue, taking over the upstairs was an obvious choice.
“If we would have built from the ground up, it would be—who knows—$2 million, easily,” Logesky says. “Our debt we acquired is one-fifth what we would have if we would have built a venue that looked like this.”
Not that the couple spared any expense: A brick wall was repaired and painted—“People love our brick: it’s a selling point,” Logesky says—and wood that was on-site was repurposed. “All of our farm tables were built from the original drop ceiling,” she says. “The building really gave us some beautiful things.”
Even the name of the venue refers to its past: “We named it 1883 Locale because ‘locale’ was the term for a venue in the 1880s,” she says.
With their photography background, the owners knew the space needed to be functional on couples’ wedding days. “We were very excited to open a venue where we could have that knowledge behind it. We’re going to make sure the bridal suite has lots of light, we’re going to make sure it has a neutral palette,” Logesky says.
Central Ohio wedding industry veterans Josh and Michelle Staley had similar instincts when renovating their recently opened venue, The Postmark, in Chillicothe.
“We know what a chaotic wedding day looks like and what a smooth wedding day looks like, and what it takes to make that happen,” says Michelle, who owns Michelle Joy Photography. Her husband, Josh, owns DJ company Josh Staley Productions.
The venue, originally a post office that was later turned into a restaurant, school and event venue, fell into the married couple’s laps: The in-laws of one of Josh’s employees owned the building and were looking to sell. “We went down and looked at it, and just saw the potential,” Josh says.
The main floor, which can hold up to 175, is used for events; the bridal suite is upstairs and a groom’s lounge, downstairs. Old-fashioned carpeting was ripped up and replaced with new flooring, and light fixtures were added, among other improvements. And they’re not done yet.
“We actually have since bought the house next door and turned that into an Airbnb with a backyard ceremony space,” Josh says. “Guests who come to get married there can actually stay at that house next door.”
The Staleys see the business as something couples will be drawn to regardless of whether they avail themselves of services provided by Josh and Michelle’s other businesses. “I actually haven’t photographed a wedding at Postmark yet,” Michelle says. (Another business run by Josh, a budget DJ brand called Turn Up Columbus, has serviced weddings at The Postmark as part of one of the packages offered.)
The Logeskys also regarded 1883 Locale as distinct from their photography business, but they saw that venue clients were interested in hiring them to shoot their weddings once they realize they were photographers. “Now we’re floating both businesses with one form of advertising,” Logesky says.
For her part, Crawford says that while she feels both of her businesses will benefit from her becoming a venue owner, she will always strive to put clients’ interests first: If Genesis Downtown, which can accommodate up to 250 people for a cocktail reception, is a good venue, so be it—but if it doesn’t suit a couple’s needs, she’ll suggest the wedding take place elsewhere.
“If I don’t think that it would be a right fit, then I’m going to steer them to some of the other amazing venues that are here in Columbus,” says Crawford, who has on her team a liaison to work with couples who book both The Planning Bee and Genesis Downtown. “That way, there’s not that conflict of interest,” Crawford says. (Couples who book at Genesis and decide to use The Planning Bee are eligible for a 10 percent discount on Planning Bee packages.)
At least one Central Ohioan saw the trend of vendor-owned venues coming early: Teena Parker of Ampersand Flowers & Events in Worthington has made her small space available for events since opening her establishment about three years ago.
“My background is in event planning and running a venue versus flowers,” Parker says. “When I saw a space that could be both a flower shop and an event space, I just kind of went for it.”
Parker describes the venue as a blank slate. “It’s very bright, light, airy,” she says. “There are huge floor-to-ceiling windows. The walls are white. The floors a light gray.”
While not a large space—capacity tops out at about 30—it can accommodate both bridal showers and intimate ceremonies. (Parker is a licensed officiant.) There is no preferred vendor list, though Ampersand is the exclusive florist for the space.
“When I’m not utilizing the space as my own flower workshop, I can rent it out to other people to use,” Parker says.
In the end, vendors tout their venues because of their unique perspective on the kinds of spaces that work best for weddings.
“We see the needs, and we’re like: ‘We know how to do this,’ ” Logesky says. “So why wouldn’t we do it?”