There is an old brick building in downtown Chehalis that many people passing through may not even notice. From the outside, despite its large presence, it almost appears empty, but it happens to encase one of the more beautiful event centers in Lewis County, The Loft. Its hidden beauty is one of the many features that sparked interest for business owner and operator Stephanie Cline.
“I would have never thought that this is what was inside” she says, “but this building tells a story.” She has been in the events industry for more than 16 years, and her strengths and experience make her a professional in all that she does.
The unique space has endured significant restoration in order to bring out its historic appeal, but also breathe in some new life. It began in 1906 as Franklin-Everett, a tractor building company, which used to ship the tractors using the railroad just steps out the backdoor. In the early 1920s, it housed the first Sears Mercantile and Implement store off the I-5 corridor. In the 60s and 70s, well-known musicians used some of this space for rehearsing, but it later become a Reclinerland.
Stephanie took on the lease in June 2014, after a 10-year stint as a stay-at-home mom to five children. She has created a customizable event center, used for wedding ceremonies, parties and fundraisers of every kind. Prior to being a full-time mom, she owned Club Wed, a wedding attire store. But after suffering the tragic loss of her young brother to cancer, she decided to focus on her family. All the while, she continued to be a resource for event planning in the area.
“People would always call asking where they could rent chairs or tables, and eventually I just started buying them and renting them out.”
As quickly as her children grew, so did her stash of supplies, as she acquired linens and dishes, vases and dance floors. There was no need to advertise, the community continued to seek her out.
Today, the resourceful entrepreneur offers full event services, but she also allows clients to create their own events to get exactly what they are looking for at a budget they can afford.
The Loft has three floors, each floor offering something a little bit different. The 30,000-square-foot building is obtainable in its entirety, or individual floors can be rented. Holding 447 guests per floor, it is one of the largest spaces for rent in Lewis County. “We are a one-stop shop and we are able to pull off several different looks for clients,” says Stephanie. “We can do vintage, rustic, shabby chic, winery look, and all of the furniture is movable. We can bring visions to life,” she explains.
Perhaps the thing she takes most pride in is her ability to take stress off families and groups who are putting on such significant events. She offers packages that include set-up and teardown, decorations, catering and planning, only having to meet with clients three to four times prior. She can also do events with just some of those services and supplies as well as time in the building. For instance, when booking a wedding, you will get the building from noon on a Friday to 9:00 in the morning Sunday, but if it is not a wedding, you likely do not need that amount of time in the facility.
Keeping people happy and working to give them exactly what they want is her biggest priority. This is likely why she launched another version of her business, known as Party in a Box. This allows clients to rent specific items at an all-inclusive price. She has custom-built mobile farm tables, whiskey bars, tents and lights just to list a few. She is also available for hire on-site with Party in a Box. “I love going out and doing events, helping make them stress free,” she reiterates.
“One thing I have learned is to read people,” explains Stephanie. “If it does not seem like it is going to be a good fit, I find out exactly what they are looking for and send them to the other local venues.” She went on to discuss the beauty and goodness of her fellow Lewis County business owners and their spaces with the value of keeping things local.
Stephanie did 62 events in her first year at The Loft, which greatly exceeded her goal. Although she has many things booked for 2017, there are still some amazing dates open on her calendar for clients to snag. She currently employs about 5 people regularly, but she uses 8 to 10 on the weekends of big events.
In addition to The Loft and Party in a Box, Stephanie has The Vault in the neighboring town of Tenino. It does not sound like Stephanie is slowing down, as she is possibly obtaining another building in Centralia very soon.
There is a comforting humbleness about this local businesswoman with a relaxed demeanor. During our meeting, she had employees moving furniture, ironing linens and working seamlessly about their morning. She values the term trust, and it is easy to see there is a lot of trust at The Loft and the services that they provide.
For more information or if you’re seeking event space, visit The Loft on Facebook or call 360-996-4463. The Loft is located at 547 NW Pacific Avenue in Chehalis.