Our summer salon took place at the gorgeous and historic Firehouse Chicago. It was truly as dreamy as it looks in photos; the perfect spot for an intimate gathering. We recently sat down with the space manager and summer salon attendee Michelle Marchisotta to learn more about the history of the space, what she loves most about her job, and what she envisions for this charming venue's future.
Tell us a bit about the history of Firehouse Chicago. Are there components of the space you have preserved to show the heritage of the space?
The firehouse was built in 1906 and was an active firehouse until fall of 2008. It was bought by the current owners in the Spring of 2010. Much thought and care went into planning, and preserving its integrity was at the top on the list. The glistening white subway tiled walls are original, the original wooden lockers are upstairs, and the original metal/spiral staircase still stands.
Clients and guests get most excited about the one remaining fire pole - one of the three original fire poles is in the main event space - allowing brides and/or grooms to slide down the pole to greet who they are marrying at the altar. My favorite history tidbit is that the catering kitchen used to be the stable where the horses lived that pulled the first horse-drawn firetruck. I also love letting people know that the original fire doors were replaced with the new ones by the owner. He made them up at his farm out of reclaimed cow barn floors.
What can you do to customize the space?
The space is simply gorgeous as is but can be treated as a blank canvas. We house many unique vintage/rustic farm/rummage sale finds to create lounge areas and nooks of interest. We've had the side yard filled with colorful Moroccan-style tents and pillows, hang fabric from the 2nd floor balcony to billow in the wind, dress the interior windows with curtains.
My favorite DIY element is the 48 outlets on the ceiling grid. We’ve had people hang vintage bulbs from them. An upcoming couple is making homemade mason jar lanterns at different lengths to hang and light up to make the room sparkle.
We had a reclaimed wood artist friend make a custom bar for the space. It’s a showpiece as a bar, but my favorite is when it is used as a furniture piece against the wall and dressed up like Forth did for the Summer Salon with the adorable colorful pom garland, question cards and berry bar.
Why do you think people are excited about the space?
Firehouse Chicago is an alarmingly charming venue tucked in a north side neighborhood. It’s off the beaten path, is comfortably elegant, has a gorgeous-private garden, and is filled with rich history.
Can you share a bit about the range of celebrations individuals use your venue for?
From corporate networking mixers, to ideation sessions, book signings, music release parties, holiday parties, team building meetings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, anniversary parties, family reunions, commitment ceremonies and weddings - we can host it all! The venue has that “it just feels good" vibe, allowing for corporate events to be that much more inspiring and private events to be that much more intimate.
What is the most unusual rental request you've had to date?
We recently had a death metal band film their upcoming music video in the space. I think that one definitely wins.
How did you get into event/space management?
Luckily my open passion for cooking from scratch and corporate sales/event planning background led me to a friend who pointed me in the direction of an open position with FIG Catering. FIG partnered with the owners of the firehouse to manage events and they offered me the opportunity to spearhead the events and venue management. It’s the best of all the worlds I love! A great balance of being practical, creative, and creatively practical all at the same time.
What are the greatest joys you experience from managing an event venue such as Firehouse?
Hands-down, my greatest joy is the execution of a wedding day. I am lucky to share the happiest time in people’s lives with them. I love working at the Firehouse because all of my clients connect with the space the same way I do. I can see it in their eyes before they tell me they want to book.
The focus of our summer salon was social media, and how we use it personally and for the businesses we manage. How does Firehouse use and engage in social media? How do people tend to find out about the space?
I was both personally and professionally excited about the focus of the Summer Salon. Being a newer operation, it was perfect timing to get insight and knowledge from others that have been doing this for much longer than I have. It’s was easiest to adapt personal social media habits when focusing on Firehouse Chicago. The summer salon ultimately made me feel I should put effort into every avenue and to find out what is right for the venue. Since the web and social media are huge influences in leads, it is something I will continually stay up on and learn about. However, I am old fashioned and am happy many of our inquires come from people in the neighborhood, community involvement or by or by word of mouth.
What do you you see for the future of Firehouse? Is there a dream type of event you'd love to host?
I see our calendar filled with a mix of corporate and social events. I see an endless amount of memories. I’m going to be selfish and say my dream event would be to have my anniversary party or vow renewal in the space. I would let my DIY dreams run wild!
Thank you for your insight on this lovely venue Michelle! We're already dreaming of future events that would be perfect for this space!Find Firehouse Chicago