Local Business Spotlight (LBS) sat down for an interview with Sarah Stewart, Manager of the Carlisle Ribbon Mill, one of the premier wedding venues in Carlisle, PA.
LBS: Can you give us an overview of the Carlisle Ribbon Mill and what type of services you offer?
Sarah: We are an events and wedding venue facility. We have two rooms, the main banquet hall and the adjoining bar room. You can rent just the banquet hall or you can rent both. In the bar room we’ve got a built in bar, with a television, although for weddings I usually tell people to keep them out, because you don’t want that at a wedding.
We have tables and chairs to rent but you don’t have to rent them from us. I have a list of different vendors that I’m familiar with for Rentals, Catering, Photographers, Flowers, Bakeries and Disc Jockey’s, but you don’t have to use any certain vendor. We’re kind of like a blank slate, so you can create your own event.
We do all kinds of events, although most of our business is weddings. That’s kind of the favorite part of my job too.
LBS: Could you tell us about some of the other types of events you’ve hosted?
Sarah: Yes, we’ve done corporate events in the past, anniversary parties, sweet sixteens are getting pretty big, we’ve been doing some of those lately. I try to do some benefits every year, so we’ve done quite a few benefits. That’s one of the nice things about being family owned, you can support local businesses, local charities and things like that. So yes, we do all different kinds of events, although most of them are weddings.
LBS: How many people can you accommodate, and what were some group sizes you’ve hosted?
Sarah: We’re permitted for 212 in the banquet hall, and 176 in the bar room. The biggest wedding that I’ve ever had here was 242. It’s hard to tell with events that aren’t weddings because you don’t always have a number before hand. We’ve done some benefits where we’ve had live local bands. We used to do “music at the mill” once a month where we had live bands and I think the one was about 200 people.
LBS: How long has the Ribbon Mill been in business?
Sarah: I’ve been doing this for about three years now. My family bought the building in about 2003, but it took a while to get this part done. I guess they started doing events in 2006. That’s when they opened to the public but they only did a few events here and there. Then it really took off about three years ago.
LBS: So if someone wanted to rent the facility, what exactly do you offer toward what they would need for the event?
Sarah: We do have tables and chairs right now, I’d like to move into having more of a full service place where we can offer linens, plates and glasses. But right now I do have local companies like Capital Rentals that I recommend and they don’t charge for delivery here. I have lists of caterers that I recommend, but they don’t have to use those companies. At the first meeting I usually sit with people for about an hour and go over all kinds of options for vendors.
Most of the people that rent this kind of space want to create more of a unique wedding or event rather than a cookie cutter type of affair. I’d rather give people choices, but I am here to help so that they don’t feel like they are confined to this box where they have to have their event in. So basically I can provide all the resources they need to complete their event. I am available for the whole function to help coordinate it.
LBS: What are some of the main reasons you like living and doing business in the Carlisle area?
Sarah: I was born here, I grew up here and I think more people need to live somewhere else just to appreciate where they are from, because I really missed it. My family is here, it’s a great little town and honestly, in the time I was gone some great improvements happened. The downtown area has become alive again, and there are new restaurants, new shops and a lot of locally owned things. It’s been wonderful. There’s a lot of stuff to do here and honestly, the people are really friendly and really nice. There’s something about the east coast people that’s really different, not that there is anything wrong with the west coast people. I lived in Lake Tahoe for the past 6 years and LA for 3 years.
LBS: What have been some of your biggest challenges in running the business?
Sarah: It’s very time consuming. I work almost every weekend, but people have the opposite schedule to mine so keeping up with friends and family can be difficult. I love my job, I do…I know people say that but they don’t really mean it, but I do, I love my job. My biggest problem has been making sure I can get home to let my dog out. But other than that it’s been great, it’s a really fun job.
LBS: Can you tell us about some interesting, funny, or crazy things that have happened?
Sarah: The poor bride, I don’t know if you know what a privacy shield is, it’s the back of the brides dress where the corset is, there is a fabric behind that..it’s called a privacy shield.
This poor girl, she was one of the sweetest people ever, I loved her dearly, but I won’t mention any names. When they had their ceremony here and she was getting ready, one of the bridesmaids came out and said there was a problem. I went in and she looked beautiful I didn’t know what was wrong. I’m like, you look gorgeous, what wrong? She turned around and her dress had a corset the whole way down like to below her butt and they took the privacy shield off so she was just naked.
It was 45 minutes before the ceremony so I sent one of the bridesmaids to JoAnn Fabrics that was just down the street and they ended up just sewing some silk to the dress while she was in it. So it was stressful, but it turned out fine.
LBS: What are some of the trends in your industry that you are noticing that might affect customers or your community?
Sarah: A lot of people are doing green weddings now, which I think is great. I think the demand for those kind of products are getting bigger. So I think for other small businesses that do things like wedding rentals or supplies and things like that maybe they could give more green options for people, cause they are looking for things like that. They are specifically catering their wedding around that theme, and at our wedding venue they have that option.
LBS: Are there any current events or promotions that are taking place here at the Ribbon Mill?
Sarah: There’s a benefit we do every year, it’s the David Doody Jam Fest, put on by Angela Doody. David died as a result of injuries from an auto accident. Every year Angela does the benefit which includes local bands and high school bands and there is usually pizza and soda and stuff like that. All the proceeds go to a scholarship fund, because David wanted to go to college. So we’ve been doing that, this will be the third year. That’s coming up on May 31, 2012.
LBS: Is there anything else you would like the customer to know?
Sarah: We’re family owned, and specifically for weddings, I honestly believe that people should have the wedding that they want, not the wedding they are forced to concede to because of limitations. Here we want you to create the wedding of your dreams.
LBS: How can a potential customer learn more about your business and the services you offer?
Sarah: Visit www.carlisleribbonmill.com for all the information & pricing.
Local Business Spotlight thanks Sarah Stewart for allowing us the interview!