It's not too hard to find a vineyard that hosts weddings. But what about a brewery?
Last week, wedding and reception venue Willow Creek Glass Chapel and Banquet Barn in Shelby, Iowa, was awarded $5,000 by the regional Southwest Iowa Dream Big Grow Here business grant contest to make brewery weddings a reality.
The money will pay for the construction of a 500-square-foot room behind the reception hall to house the brewery, owner Shane McCool said. He and his co-owner wife, Maritza, already have an interested homebrewer with equipment.
“That's going to be a huge step for us,” McCool said.
The competition, put on by the University of Northern Iowa and the Small Business Development Center, began in September with an online social media voting portion to narrow it down to six companies in southwest Iowa. Those six businesses then pitched their ideas to a panel of three judges last week and were awarded based on what they planned to do with the money and how it might help the business expand and grow.
A runner-up, Egg Krate Antiques of Elkhorn, Iowa, was awarded $1,000. Katrina Riggs, owner of Egg Krate Antiques, plans to use the money to improve and repair the old building that houses the flea market-style business, where local vendors rent booths and sell antiques and handmade items.
The 22-year-old recently purchased the business, formerly run by a handful of retired people.
Honorable mention and $250 each were awarded to: the Pudgy Pumpkin Patch Gift Shop of Red Oak, Iowa; Innovative Strength and Conditioning of Underwood, Iowa; Kitchen Sisters of Persia, Iowa; and Valley Drug Store of Missouri Valley, Iowa.
The McCools' glass chapel is located on the family's 120-year-old family farm and is meant to appeal to those who desire an outdoor wedding but don't want to deal with the possibility of bad weather. The property features a reception hall made from reclaimed barn wood just 75 yards away.
“You can take the worry out of it but still give yourself the feel of having an outdoor wedding,” McCool said.
McCool said the addition of a brewery will help the business in the winter months, creating a draw for corporate parties or barn dances with local musicians. There is also hope to one day grow grains on the farm that would be used to brew beer.
“It's really kind of endless, just how much we want to put into it,” he said. “I'm ready to go all in.”
The McCools will go on to compete in the statewide competition in March, where the 10 regional winners will have a chance at snagging an additional $10,000.
Riggs said she plans to compete again next year.
“(The McCools) got second last year. So I'll just do it again and hope to get first next year.”