Business Focus: Magnolia Lake

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Whether you are a four year-old wanting to meet a princess while you eat cupcakes and sip lemonade, or you are 94 celebrating a life lived spectacularly, Magnolia Lake can assist you in making memories for a lifetime. If you want to simply rent the facility with tables and chairs (which includes set up and clean up), or you desire a package which includes decorations, catering, and more, Magnolia Lake will create an experience beyond your expectations.

In May of 2002, Kay Deahl closed on this elegant property. By August, she was renting out the Lake House for events; other venues were available by December. Current owner Ruby Rushing and her husband Charlie built The Pavilion after they took over ownership from Deahl, who wanted to spend more time with her children. When speaking of the staff, Ruby along with Shelly Bush, general manager and sales event coordinator, had nothing but good things to say. “Everybody is on the same page when it comes to working an event. No one complains, ‘It’s not my job.’ We have really good people, and everyone knows what needs to be done.” Ruby has even been caught washing dishes more than a time or two. Weston Rushing and Diane Hansen, both part-time event staff, work mainly during the day, but also assist with events during the evenings. Marcos Almanza keeps all 11 acres of the grounds looking splendid.

Although the Princess Parties usually garner groups of little girls from four to ten years old, recently a client turning 80 wanted to celebrate her birthday as a princess. When a mom orders this package, Magnolia Lake sends out custom-made invitations. When the guests arrive, they pick out beautiful dresses which transform the young ladies into princesses. During the two-hour time slot, the “royalty” enjoys spending time with a “real-live” princess, putting on a modeling show with the princess dresses provided for the young ladies, party games, party favors, and (of course) a chorus of Happy Birthday. Since “the word has gotten out” about the Princess Parties, the guests often includes young ladies who have attended their friends’ royal celebrations. Thus, the staff works hard to make sure each party is unique and memorable.

Toward this end, the staff does spend time educating themselves on new and growing trends. “We spend time browsing around on Pinterest. Someone may come into the office and think we are doing nothing but looking at pretty stuff on the computer,” Shelly laughingly shared, “but it is actually work.” One time when Shelly was decorating, she told Ruby, “I don’t feel like I’m working, because this is so much fun.” The staff attends bridal shows before their Open House in order to stay aware of new fashions and styles. “It is like Pinterest in 3D,” Shelly mentioned.

Open House was held on March 22 from 2 pm to 4 pm. During this free event, party stations were set up at each of the six varying locations on site. Vendors were also available to showcase their wares. The Open House was to show the public this beautiful location is not “just for weddings. We’ve hosted graduation and retirement parties. Academy held a training seminar here last summer. Candidates running for local office have held Meet-N-Greets at the facility. A local car dealership holds its annual Christmas party with us every year,” said Shelly.

Magnolia Lake offers six diversified locations to their guests, depending on the size of the party. The Ice House is a rustic, open-barn type area often used for small events ranging from crawfish boils and fish-frys to small weddings. Guests often also rent this particular location in conjunction with the Texan and the Lake House to accommodate an overflow crowd or for its fenced-in area where children can run and play, offering their parents peace of mind that the youngsters aren’t frolicking near the lake. The Texan houses up to 30 people and is the location for most of the Princess Parties. Often, caterers utilize this space in combination with the Lake House, so they have the space to set up while remaining separate from the event.

The Lake House encompasses the bridal suite and the offices, which are open Monday through Friday from eight to five. This location easily and comfortably facilitates up to 50 guests. Bridal showers, baby showers, graduation parties, and other smaller events reserve this building overlooking the lake. There is a lighted fountain on the water, which the coordinators often customize for the occasion (i.e. orange and blue lights for a SHSU event or lights which match a bride’s colors).

Large weddings, family reunions, proms, or whatever other large gatherings desire to assemble choose The Star Ballroom. This venue can accommodate up to 350 guests. If the client chooses to have a cookie bar, candy bar, photo booth, chocolate fountain, etc., and they have many guests, the coordinators make sure to utilize every inch of space possible. They can set up the cuisine for the guests to enjoy, and then break down the area so that the space can be utilized for dancing and other guest activities. Magnolia Lake has also equipped The Ballroom with wifi access, speakers, and a projector. Shelly supplies clients with her cell number, so she is available to assist in any way possible.

The staff pays attention to all of the details. In The Ballroom, small, unobtrusive trash cans tend to fill quickly, but a staff member will be there to quickly remove the refuse and be readily available to meet the needs of the party-goers. On the third Thursday of each month, a ballroom dance group utilizes this venue, often bringing a live band as they waltz through the evening. If guests need to step outside for fresh air or simply want to gaze at the lake, the veranda provides an area in which to gather. The Pavilion and The Rock Garden are outside and can serve as their own venues or in conjunction with the aforementioned spaces. If a DJ needs to set up in these areas, electricity is available so customers can dance the night away.

Magnolia Lake believes it is important, whenever possible, to use local vendors. They choose local eatery Farmhouse Café to cater many events, yet they are happy to work with vendors chosen by the clients. Bandera Grill, Benny J’s, Daisy’s Diner, and others have also catered events onsite. This professional staff works with their clients to set up floor plans and will work with vendors in order to make sure all their needs are met, such as access to outlets and more. This relieves the client from having to make multiple trips to the location to meet with whomever they have hired. The staff or coordinators also make themselves available after hours, knowing not all clients can reach the location during main office hours. Many people choose Saturdays to hold their events, thus booking for Sundays through Fridays lessens the fee for clients.

Magnolia Lake truly caters to client needs and visions. They take care of all of the details, big and small. Since they have created many centerpieces and other decorations, they have access to a number of props, colors, banners, and décor. If a patron asks questions and offers suggestions, the coordinators get their creative juices flowing and awe the partygoers with their designs. “Even though we have a quote printed out for a bride or party package, we can customize the package so that we have exactly what they are looking for. People are often surprised that we are affordable,” Shelly said when questioned about the varying packages. Ruby added, “A lot of people don’t realize we do the set-up and the clean-up.”

Although Magnolia Lake lies literally minutes from downtown Huntsville, the secluded setting allows customers to separate themselves and enjoy beautiful celebrations. However, many Huntsville citizens have not realized this gem glistening in their own “backyard.” Shelly said they participate in the Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours and Trade Expo regularly. “We try to stay out there with the public so they know we are here,” Shelly stated.

At the end of each event, the staff sends out a survey. The customers have an opportunity to offer suggestions. “If an idea is going to improve their visit here or improve the venue itself, we definitely take those into consideration. When a client has booked with us, we know it is our responsibility to see it through until the end. You may not finish at five o’clock on a Friday; you may not finish at five o’clock on a Saturday. This is our passion. Come out and experience what we have to offer. Our attention to detail makes our service stand out. The clients and their guests feel they are being pampered no matter what the occasion.”

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