Holiday Parties, Soap Gallery Youngstown

Holiday Parties Pick Up After a Blue Season in 2020

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With the holiday season in full swing, people and companies are steadily and enthusiastically returning to parties this year, with some venues returning to pre-pandemic booking levels.

Still, while the parties and holiday gatherings may feel celebratory and full of holiday spirit, they may also look a little different.

In Mahoning County, venues in Youngstown are seeing people interested in hosting parties in spacious areas.

“Things are better than last year,” says Dani Dier, chief business officer of Stambaugh Auditorium. Bookings have filled up, with high interest for gatherings. “If we lose a holiday event, another comes along to replace it,” he says. “We’ve had a slew of events.”

At the Soap Gallery downtown, get-togethers have been scheduled, according to co-owner Stephen Poullas.

Typically, the artist gallery keeps its space open for art-related events. “Some people are asking to hold their Christmas parties here. It’s going pretty steady,” he says.

Poullas has noticed that people are going out of their way to deck the halls, which he attributes to everyone being cooped up last holiday season. “I’ve noticed people are spending a lot more money on decorations,” he says.

For a birthday party recently held at the Soap Gallery, someone had an ice sculpture as part of the décor. “There have been a lot more balloons this year,” he adds.

Also seeing glitz and glamour for individual parties is the Youngstown Event Center on Market Street. “People are definitely raising the stakes,” says owner Hasheen Wilson. “It’s great to see people” excited to get dressed up. “People are itching to do something.”

Just as with other venues, this season is better than last, Wilson says. “It’s a fantastic year. Last year it was spotty. This year, we had Thanksgiving celebrations here and Christmas” with people decorating the room, he said.

In Trumbull County, two venues are seeing similar demand.

Avalon Golf and Country Club in Warren has been winding down from a bustle, but on a smaller scale.

“For 50-and-under parties, we were really busy,” says Brenna Teaberry, director of corporate sales. “The bigger parties we still had were normal with dancing, celebrating and eating dinner.”

The more intimate gatherings were mostly the same except for dancing, Teaberry says.

Also seeing a shift this year is Ciminero’s Banquet Centre in Niles. While parties have been “healthy,” owner Anthony Ciminero, who most people know as “Mr. C.,” says large catering orders have taken off this year.

“It’s been very busy with businesses that have always ordered carryout, and businesses who have had large parties here are doing things at their offices or places of business,” Ciminero says. “It’s gone well with the large orders” and steady stream of parties.

Just because people are anxious or excited to be around friends, family and colleagues doesn’t mean they aren’t being careful. People are still cautious at the Youngstown Event Center, Wilson says.

“Some are still wearing their masks and sanitizing, making sure hand sanitizer is out,” he says.

That’s true at the Soap Gallery. For those unvaccinated, masks are required and state guidelines are recommended. After that, it’s up to the party hosts for rules, Poullas says, noting that hand sanitizer has been oresebt at each event.

Stambaugh and DeYor have mask mandates for ticketed events, but for private events, “We leave it up to the client,” Dier says. Staff wear masks and clean thoroughly, she adds.

At Avalon, extra efforts and cleanings are routine to ensure customer and employee safety, Teaberry says. “On our end, we take care with precautions.”

Lots of hand sanitizers and boxes of masks are sprinkled around decorations, Teaberry notes. But have been no mandates from clients.

Representatives of the venues say they are cautiously optimistic about the increase in bookings repeating into 2022.

“Hopefully the steadiness continues,” Dier says.

Pictured at top: Preparing decorations for a party at the Soap Gallery in Youngstown is Abby Patterson, gallery coordinator.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.