Another new business is close to opening in the River District: Cottontail Weddings & Events.
Owner Matthew Switick said he expects the construction — which is in its finishing phase, with air conditioning being installed last week — to be completed in the next few weeks and for the doors to open in early August.
The 3,600-square-foot space at 600 Craghead St. does have a historic feel, with original wood floors, beams and columns. However, elegant touches are being added, like large chandeliers, lighting in the floor around the columns and other decorative touches.
The space will include seating for about 150 people, with room left for dancing and live music, Switick said.
There is also a dressing room and warming kitchen.
“We’ll have the tables, chairs and tablecloths; people would bring in their own caterers, who would bring in food and dishes,” Switick said.
Switick said he has worked in the hospitality industry before and was looking for a place to open his own business in North Carolina.
“I’ve been thinking about it since college,” he said. “I always wanted my own business, but wasn’t sure what kind.”
When he married his wife, Shelly, four years ago, they held the event at Starlight Meadow in Burlington, North Carolina.
“A friend there really got us excited about the possibility of doing something similar,” Switick said.
They moved to the Raleigh area and he looked for property where he could open a barn-type event place like Starlight Meadow — but couldn’t find the right place.
Instead a family friend — Shelly is a Danville native — recommended they look at the River District, and in December 2015 toured the space on Craghead Street.
“I knew it was the right place,” Switick said.
And with Ballad Brewery next door, he said he is excited about the possibility of working with the brewery for some events.
Switick said he found the city’s economic development department a big help, particularly Corrie Teague Bobe, the assistant director of the department.
Bobe said Switick did not qualify for historic tax credit help in renovating the building since that is reserved for building owners/developers. Instead, the city was able to provide a $20,000 River District Enhancement Grant to help cover the costs of making the space right for Switick’s business.
“The grant reimburses business owners for capital improvements they make,” Bobe said.
A signed performance agreement for the grant requires Switick invest $60,000 in capital improvements, have two full-time employees and to stay in the location for at least seven years.
The department doesn’t just hand over the money even with the signed agreement, Bobe said. Instead owners have to turn in receipts proving what they invested before any money changes hands.
Bobe said she is looking forward to Cottontail Weddings & Events openings.
“It’s going to be a beautiful space,” Bobe said. “It’s the type of space we get asked about often for weddings and special events people want to have in the River District.”
Ross Fickenscher, one of the partners who developed 600 Craghead St., confirmed all of the commercial spaces in the building have now been leased and the apartments on the upper floors are filling fast.
“We’re excited about [Cottontail Weddings & Events] and think it will do well,” Fickenscher said.