You don’t need a lot of industry expertise to realize that large events — particularly weddings — are big business.
David and Stacey Vecellio, the husband and wife team who own and operate two unique event spaces — The Cupola Barn in Oconomowoc and The Grain Loft in Algoma — came to that same realization a few years ago. After being involved in the wedding plans for two of their five children, they fell in love with the process of helping people create events that truly capture their personalities.
They soon left their health care careers behind and remodeled an 1840s dairy barn and transformed it into a rustic venue in Oconomowoc in 2016. That’s now The Cupola Barn, which operates May 1 through Oct. 31. “That property exceeded our expectations and took off really well,” David Vecellio says.
While they weren’t necessarily looking for a second venue, sometimes business opportunities present themselves when you least expect them. One summer a couple of years ago, they were driving home from Door County and saw a “for sale” sign outside of the former Flying Pig Art Gallery in Algoma. “It’s such a cool building, so we hit the brakes,” David Vecellio says.
Indeed, the property is breathtaking. With 15 acres of beautiful grounds, ponds and several smaller outdoor cabins, it was practically begging to be made into an event space. The Vecellios took the leap and decided to bring a unique venue to Algoma, a community that didn’t offer many similar options for weddings or other events.
That space became The Grain Loft, which opened last May. With heat and air conditioning, it’s able to host events year-round. The pair split their time between the two properties and have an onsite manager for The Grain Loft who can meet with prospective clients.
Both locations have given the couple opportunities to flex their creative muscles in different areas. Stacey Vecellio enjoys meeting with clients (particularly brides) to put special touches on their events — whether that involves a taco truck or a pig roast. And, David Vecellio relishes the chance to roll up his sleeves, as the couple handled 50 percent of the renovations on the properties themselves.
“We’re not afraid to get our hands dirty,” he says. “We do all of the landscaping, lawn maintenance and snow removal as well.”
Weddings make up an estimated 80 to 90 percent of The Grain Loft’s business, thanks to the venue’s highly customizable space. Unlike many event spaces, with their properties, the Vecellios are willing to explore options and help clients add plenty of unique touches in terms of food, drinks or décor.
Couples also appreciate the ability to host everything in one place, the Vecellios say. With onsite parking, a separate suite and cottage for brides and grooms to get ready, the reception space and plenty of outdoor spots for photos, wedding groups rarely have to leave the premises.
The Grain Loft is only getting started, and the Vecellios are gearing up for their busiest season, which starts in early May. They’ve already enjoyed the chance to help boost the local economy in Algoma, but more than anything, it’s working with the couples that’s the most rewarding part of their businesses.
“We don’t just work with couples the day of,” Stacey Vecellio says. “We work with them all the way through, from start to finish, so we get to know each couple really well. It’s almost like watching our own kids get married again.”