Geneva couple plans to turn a historic St. Charles property into a wedding venue
A charming stone house in downtown St. Charles contained several qualities that caught the attention of Karen and Lance Ramella as they scoped out sites for their latest business venture.
There was the character and history of the 165-year-old property, filled with stories from owners past. There was its location in the heart of the city, within walking distance to popular shops and restaurants.
And then there was the address, 316 Cedar St., which wouldn't mean much to most potential buyers. But Karen Ramella just so happened to also own a boutique event space right across the river called 210Cedar, named after its address on Cedar Avenue.
"I felt like it was meant to be," she said.
The historic structure at 316 Cedar St. will now be the centerpiece of the Ramellas' new larger venue, Cedar Fox Weddings & Events, slated to open early next year.
The Geneva couple plans to build an addition off the limestone house, offering indoor and outdoor space to accommodate year-round wedding ceremonies, receptions and other sizable events. Though the capacity has not yet been finalized, Karen Ramella estimates it'll hold roughly 160 people.
"We love the fact that, while the actual venue itself will have a more modern farmhouse style, it's got the history of the original home right there," she said. "That's part of the attraction for us."
Ramella's quaint 210Cedar venue has grown in popularity the past couple of years, she said, offering the perfect size and ambience for bridal showers, baby showers and other gatherings of less than 40 people.
Late last year, she received inquiries about whether she'd consider expanding her business, and she soon noticed an untapped market for larger event spaces in the immediate area.
Plans fell into place this spring when Ramella and her husband stumbled upon 316 Cedar St., which was for sale by the owners of the nearly 50-year-old family-run Johnson's Statuary.
The couple closed on the property in May.
Careful not to change any of the site's historic features, the Ramellas have been working closely with the city on their vision for the venue, said Ciara Miller, economic development planner.
"It's a beautiful, historic property and it has a lot of draw," Miller said. "We think this is going to be a great business to add to our downtown business community. We're kind of seeing the reinvention of a historic property into a new, creative use."
Construction plans have been approved by the historic preservation commission, and the city council recently approved awarding two grants to assist with the project: $18,833 to help cover facade improvements and a $25,000 commercial corridor and downtown business economic incentive award to help bring the site up to code.
The city has been reviewing a building permit application for the project, and Ramella said she expects construction to begin within the next couple of weeks.
The Ramellas hope to have the venue ready for the 2021 wedding season to accommodate newly engaged couples or those who have had to postpone their weddings due to the coronavirus.
"A lot of couples are having a tough time finding availability," Ramella said.
"We're hoping we can fill that void."