Journal Times - April 9, 2018

Journal Times - April 9, 2018

Mercantile Hall owner Wendy Lynch has ambitious plans to make Burlington an epicenter of music, arts and entertainment. 

CHRISTINA LIEFFRING christina.lieffring@journaltimes.com

BURLINGTON — Wendy Lynch, who in 2017 bought Mercantile Hall, 425 Pine St., is ready to prove that a small town like Burlington can have the same quality musicians, speakers, entertainers and activities as as Chicago or Milwaukee.

“That these small towns can be epicenters for really cool, engaging entertainment,” she said.

Mercantile Hall used to be home to the Schuette-Daniels furniture store, a downtown mainstay until a fire ripped through the building in 2013. Underneath the charred carpets, Lynch found beautiful hardwood floors. She stripped the space to expose its brick walls and ceiling beams to form an open entertainment space. And she said she invested in a top notch sound system.

When one of the former members of the alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins was in town, he stopped by to test the space and declared it was “awesome.”

“I loved the validation from a musician who’s seen a thing or two,” said Lynch.

But would someone like that play in Burlington? Lynch said for entertainers who have reached those heights of fame, it can be refreshing to play a small room where they can see and connect with the audience.

“There’s a need for talent to connect with and to fall in love again with why they wanted to do what they’re doing,” said Lynch.

She’s also collaborating with Patrick Sullivan, who organizes the Tall Tales Music Festival, to book up-and-coming musicians. She also hopes to book speakers, storytellers, authors and comedians.

Innovative events

 

In addition to bringing top notch entertainment to town, Lynch hopes to Mercantile Hall into an epicenter for community life.

Lynch said her events ideas have been percolating for a long time and are a hodge-podge of happenings she’s seen or heard about across the country, from Florida to Seattle. In March, the city gave the establishment a liquor license so she’s ready to make them a reality right here in Burlington.

There’s already a few events lined up for the summer and more coming down the pike.

Once the Burlington Farmer’s Market kicks off on Thursday evenings in Wehmhoff Square, Lynch plans on kicking off First Thursdays. On the first Thursday of the month, she’ll open up the space for people who want to grab a drink, listen to some music and perhaps even dance the night away. She also hopes to have pop-up vendors on the sidewalk outside Mercantile Hall selling food or merchandise.

In May, the venue will host a craft beer dinner and in June, on the night before Father’s day, they’ll hold a big band concert and supper club dinner called “Ode to Dad.” On July 1, they’re planning an indoor beer garden with food trucks parked outside, for an event they’re calling “Trucks and Taps.”

Some of the more ambitious projects include a float down the Fox River with bands playing on the banks and shuttle service back to Mercantile for live music and a “pop-up brewery.” Another is a Pine Street farm to table dinner, where local farmers and restaurants would team up to serve meals along a table stretched down Pine Street, a principal downtown thoroughfare.

Lynch said she hopes these events will make outsiders and Burlington residents see their small community in a new way.

“We’re hoping to inspire new businesses and residents to explore Burlington and elevate our already awesome sense of pride for this charming town we live in,” she said.

Standard Press - March 28, 2018

Standard Press - March 28, 2018

Mercantile Hall at 425 N. Pine St., Burlington, is eyed as a base for entertainment and commerce under a proposal floated by operator Wendy Lynch. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Operator aims to make Mercantile Hall a center of attraction

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Wendy Lynch’s bustling business plan for Mercantile Hall at 425 N. Pine St., Burlington, could bring in more excitement after the city’s Common Council unanimously approved her petition seeking a Class B combination reserve liquor license at last week’s meeting.

Lynch, the operator of Mercantile Hall and Bon Bon Belle Bridal shop, told the council she wants to change the dynamic of the downtown area and bring in a higher level of talent than the city of just over 10,000 would otherwise see.

“We want to have a speaker and concert series, have some cultural events, and things that provide an opportunity to bring energetic entertainment,” she said.

According to the plan she submitted to the council, examples of musical talent are Khalid, Pentatonix and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Additionally, Lynch looks to bolster the area business community by hosting organized events and activities, with her staff conducting marketing and public relations campaigns throughout the area.

A Pine Street Farm to Table Dinner is one event she envisions, which involves one long table stretching length of the Pine Street strip between Jefferson and Chestnut streets.

To increase involvement, her staff plans to encourage local farmers to work with downtown restaurants for the event. Other establishments can participate by keeping the doors open after dinner for shopping opportunities.

Participants at the table can then visit Mercantile Hall, where they can listen to live music and savor items from the pop up brewery.

Other event ideas promoted by Lynch include First Thursdays, a Food Truck Festival and a Tall Tales Music Festival After Party.

“What we want is to give back to the community and help orchestrate and organize,” Lynch said.

To read the full story, see the March 29 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.

Industrial Vintage Event Venue Now Open in Burlington

Industrial Vintage Event Venue Now Open in Burlington

New banquet hall opens in Burlington

MICHAEL BURKE mburke@journaltimes.com

 

May 6, 2017

BURLINGTON — This city’s new banquet hall and event center, Mercantile Hall, is proving to be a regional draw for brides and grooms. Its owner thinks the new venue also has great potential to become a community hub, especially for teenagers.

Mercantile Hall, 425 N. Pine St., is part of the redevelopment project rising from the ashes of the former Schuette-Daniels Furniture store, which burned in an April 5, 2014, fire and never reopened. Local businessman Shad Branen, owner of Burlington’s Plaza Theater and WIN (formerly Wisconsin Information Network) Media, bought and is redeveloping the building that he calls The Mercantile.

Wendy Lynch, owner of Bon Bon Belle Bridal, created Mercantile Hall, which debuted with its first event, a wedding, on April 29. It was also shown off to the public Saturday as one of the 60-plus Open House Racine County sites. (Lynch also plans to move her bridal shop into the building’s second floor sometime this summer.)

Mercantile Hall, comprised of 6,000 square feet on the building’s first floor, can accommodate up to 250 people for an event, Lynch said. So far, she and hall Manager Stephanie Heft have booked nearly 70 events. The vast majority of them are weddings, for which hall rental ranges from $2,700 to $3,500.

They’ve also booked a class reunion, a fundraiser and a graduation. Lynch also expects to host corporate events. She said her event bookings are coming from as far away as the Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison areas.

Spreading the wealth

Lynch said Mercantile Hall is showing that, right from its first event, it will have a beneficial impact on other Burlington and area businesses. The venue is served by caterers; clients are given a list of several in the area to consider.

The hall’s first bride came from Madison, and the couple were married at a local barn, Lynch said. The couple held both their rehearsal dinner and a cocktail reception after the wedding at The Coffee House at Chestnut & Pine. And some guests went to a local bar and local restaurant, Lynch said.

“Each weekend we’ll expose (people) to Burlington,” she said.

She thinks other complementary shops could see spinoff business, because within easy walking distance of Mercantile Hall are two florists, a menswear shop and a jeweler.

Future activities for teenagers

In addition to being a banquet and event hall, Lynch plans on Mercantile Hall serving an important function for the local community, as a gathering place, especially for teenagers.

Lynch hopes to launch a weekly teenage trivia night before the school year ends. That will be followed by Jimmy Fallon lip sync battle-type competitions and also karaoke-style battle of the bands.

“Just having that kind of safe place they can go to socialize, hang out and do something different,” she explained. “I have two up-and-coming teens,” Lynch added.

“My passion is really community,” she said, “and how (Mercantile Hall) is being received is so neat and fulfilling. The fact that we can have these things for teens is just so cool.”

For more information about Mercantile Hall call 262-758-6280 or visit www.mercantilehall.com.

New banquet hall, bridal shop coming to Burlington

BURLINGTON — Two key tenants were announced Thursday for The Mercantile, local businessman Shad Branen’s redevelopment of the former Schuette-Daniels Furniture.

Wendy Lynch, owner of Christy’s Bon Bon Belle Bridal, will open a new banquet hall/meeting space to be called Mercantile Hall in the entire first floor of The Mercantile, 425 N. Pine St.

Lynch will also move her bridal shop from 489 Milwaukee Ave. to The Mercantile. That business, the name of which will be slightly shortened to Bon Bon Belle Bridal, will occupy about one-third of the second floor, tentatively starting in January.

And as Branen said earlier, most of the basement will become a new co-working and business incubator space; Thursday he announced it will be called C/O, for Central Office. C/O will have amenities including a conference room and lounge. The basement will also contain private offices that will be for lease.

Branen said Thursday he is still working to finalize leases for the remaining space.

Lynch credited a key employee of her bridal business, Stephanie Heft, with the idea that The Mercantile’s 6,000-square-foot first floor would be a great space for a banquet/event hall. With that in mind, Lynch looked at it and, “I thought it was a no-brainer.”

Heft, who has many years of wedding experience, will manage Mercantile Hall, Lynch said. It should open next spring, she added.

Lynch expects the hall will host mostly weddings, wedding receptions and corporate meetings. She has arrangements with several caterers, mostly local, that renters of the hall will be able to choose from.

“I want it to really become a hub for the community,” Lynch said. To that end, she said Mercantile Hall will host events strictly designed for teenagers, such as team trivia nights and Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync Battle-type competitions. The hall will both organize and host them.

Moving the bridal shop that Lynch bought in 2013 will gain her about 600 square feet and increase the bridal suites from one now to four — as well as putting the business on one floor instead of two. She will hire someone to manage the business.

From the ashes

Branen, owner of Burlington’s Plaza Theater and WIN (formerly Wisconsin Information Network) Media, is redeveloping the former high-end furniture building. After it was damaged by an April 5, 2014, fire, the store went out of business.

Branen later bought the property, which includes an adjacent smaller building, from the Daniels family. He had the main building gutted to its brick walls and is installing an elevator as part of the project.

For the project that Branen has said will approach $1 million in cost, he was aided by a $192,833 Community Development Investment Grant from Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. His financing package also includes façade grant money from the City of Burlington.