Industry Report

No Shortage of Bookings for Banquet Venues

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A barn built a century-and-a-half ago remains a staple for ceremonies at The Links at Firestone Farms, says general manager Michael Ferranti, but that’s not the only attraction at the banquet hall in Columbiana. 

“Our barn we have on property is very unique to us,” he says. “You can’t find many places that have a venue at the facility, so it’s a big selling point for us to be able to have a wedding ceremony and then the reception at the same place.” 

Last year, more than $50,000 was invested into renovation over the off season at The Links. New carpet, chairs, hardwood floors, paint and decorations were updated and a bridal room was added.

The Links at Firestone Farms has seen steady growth over the years. Ferranti says weddings are a key part of the banquet center’s schedule during the weekend, but Sunday brunch and business and holiday parties have also helped fuel growth. 

“Columbiana is a growing area with all of the projects at [Town Center at Firestone Farms],” he says. “Our menu is always changing. Our brunch menu every Sunday – there’s something different and the chef always works in new, seasonal ideas.”

In addition to the usual weddings and parties, local electrical, teaching and security industries hold training seminars at The Links. The training seminars work well at The Links because the room is big enough to set up various stations. Lunch and golf can be included, Ferranti says. 

At DiVieste’s Banquet Centre in Warren, the third-generation of the DiVieste family operates the hall and focuses on staying competitive with other banquet centers. Most often, says co-manager Joseph R. DiVieste, that means going the extra mile for clients.

“We try to put our touch on it to make it more personal, to make it stand out and we try to make it fun for them,” he says. “Doing a wedding can be very stressful, but we try to take away some of that anxiety and hesitation.” 

So far this year, “business is not bad” for the banquet center, says Joseph M. DiVieste, owner and operator. Depending on the number of banquets a year, the banquet hall in Warren employs 16 full-time while adding on extra workers as necessary. 

“We can’t complain,” he says. “People like to change it up a little bit. Sometimes they want to go with a white pasta and alfredo sauce. As far as chicken goes, they like francaise or chicken parm. Sausage and peppers is very common today and roasted red-skin potatoes. They love those.”

Weddings are the most common event hosted at DiVieste’s, although business events aren’t far behind. 717 Credit Union has meetings at the Warren banquet hall, as do local clubs that have been coming since DiVieste’s opened. 

DiVieste’s Banquet Centre, Warren, is operated by the family’s third generation.

Once in a while, bridal showers are held, but since at least 125 to 150 people are needed to fill the space, DiVieste says they aren’t common. 

“We’ve been in business for 45 years, so we stay competitive,” he says. “We’re reaching out to people outside of our area to come have a wedding here.” 

Much like The Links and DiVieste’s, The Lake Club in Poland hosts most of its weddings on Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays, says Christopher Sammartino, vice president. 

Among the most frequently used areas in the club for ceremonies is the rose garden along the shore of Evans Lake, thanks to its views that make for ideal settings for photographs, he says. 

“We’re fortunate in that area with a lot of graduations, showers, rehearsal dinners and all of our corporate events,” he says. “We’re happy so far for the year.”

Some businesses hold breakfast and lunch meetings and entertain employees or clients by taking advantage of The Lake Club’s golf course and bocce courts.

“Some are doing dinner functions where they’re either involving clients or employees, both for different reasons,” Sammartino says. “Whether it would be a meeting or hosting them as an appreciation event, we’re fortunate to have different rooms to accomodate those different sizes.” 

Weddings, bridal showers and receptions are held often at Hartford Hill Winery. 

Owner Randy Wyand, says that along with weddings, special events such as concerts and fundraisers are held regularly at the Fowler winery. He employs 12 and since the winery opened four years ago, business “has been great.” Among Wyand’s plans for the venue is to build a larger stage that could attract bigger names for concerts. 

“I’d love to put up another barn just for receptions,” he adds. “We seat 300 people here and it’s rare on a Saturday night not to have the barn filled. We probably have another 80 to 100 outside.” 

Hartford Hill Winery in Hartford can seat 300 people and on Saturday nights, there’s a line of people waiting to get in.

Attendees of the DoubleTree by Hilton Youngstown Downtown have three spaces for events and banquets to choose among. 

The first, on the second floor, serves as a multipurpose room for private events, cocktail receptions, an extended lobby and rehearsal dinners, says Kimberly Patrone, director of sales. 

“We can put a bar in here; we can put food in here; so it’s that perfect intimate, casual gathering that you’re looking for as opposed to a full, sit-down dinner and buffet,” she says. “We’ve done breakfast here, anniversary parties, cocktail parties. I’ve hosted a viewing party for the Christmas parade.” 

The City View Room is used five days a week for conferences, depositions and private dinners. It can be catered and holds up to 20 people, Patrone says. The ballroom can hold 200 guests, Patrone says. Weddings, board meetings and larger events are booked for the ballroom space every weekend, she adds. 

“We’re booked out to 2020,” she says. “Besides just selling the guest rooms, this puts it as a one-stop shop with full service.” 

Business is good at The Embassy in Youngstown. Mike Naffah, president, says this year is becoming one of the venue’s best yet because of food and service quality. Its biggest selling point is wedding planning that management offers, he adds. 

“We do a lot of fundraisers, political fundraisers and fundraising charity events for the community,” Naffah says. “Graduation parties are normally booked anywhere from three months to a year [in advance]. Weddings are booked a year plus in advance.” 

In addition, the Embassy is one of the last banquet centers where people can bring their own alcohol, Naffah says.  

“We’ve been here for 40 years and we plan on being here, God willing, for another 40 years,” he says. 

Pictured: The Links at Firestone Farms includes a banquet hall, a barn where weddings can be held and, of course, the golf course. 

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.