The Venue CU is a new, upscale wedding and events venue located on the historic East Main Street in downtown Champaign (in the former Varisty Theater and Vriner’s Confestionery). We sat down with Casey Gold (left), Dan Church (right), and Greg Bugbee (seated) at The Venue CU to hear their family-owned business got started in this community!
What is the Venue CU?
Dan: Our tagline here is a modern, industrial, upscale, urban event venue. It’s a very flexible space that we can cater to weddings, corporate events, and university-sponsored events just in the heart of downtown. It is a very different model than anything else in the Champaign-Urbana area.
How and why did you all decide to start this?
Greg:I have been in the wedding scene as a wedding vendor, Bugbee’s DJ, for about 35 years now in both the Illinois and Michigan market. We have been involved with over a 100 weddings a year for a while now. It just made since to culminate it. We have been in a lot of venues and have seen what we like and don’t like. We saw a need for this style in Downtown. We were motivated to bring that style here first and also to do something together as a family.
What is it like working with your family in a business setting?
Greg: All the feels.
Casey: It’s good and it’s bad. It’s kind of like people who say don’t go into business with your family because you don’t want to ruin your family relationship. We’ve had our downs where everyone gets frustrated where that could happen but for us it’s the opposite. Even if we get into an argument, at the end of the day we are family and we will work it out because we won’t allow a business to ruin our family.
Dan: We also the benefit of knowing each other pretty well. In the end as a family we have so many skill sets that we bring to this thing that result in just a better product to put out there for our clients.
What is each of your roles in the business?
Dan: I am more on the sales side of things. I’ve got a lot of time so I’ve found myself falling into positions I didn’t except to do or didn’t feel equipped to do at times. Especially in the construction process — that side of it was interesting. I learned a lot. I do the tours, correspond with the couples and respond to the clients up front. Greg has been kind of the wisdom from his many years of business. So that has been crucial in helping us not make mistakes
Greg: The money management is probably the big piece, as well as administrative piece as well. I’m a creative person as well so I have opinion; however, I also know that when you are sitting around a table with different creative minds, you try to let them know that no idea is bad and get to the best solution. So I also do some conflict resolution as well. We are going to make mistakes but after the mistakes are made we need to ask what have we learned from those mistakes. My desire is for this to succeed because this is a legacy business for our family.
Casey: I handle anything bar and alcohol related. So once we get a little closer to someone’s date I’ll start corresponding with him or her to working with them on building their package. I can then start talking with distributors to get the choices they want. We try to build things custom for every couple sometimes it’s a lot more involved than others. I have to stay on top of our licenses and make sure all our bartenders are certified. I also do all of our IT work. I have a full time job as an IT person right now until The Venue CU gets up and running.
Dan: Casey’s wife does a lot of our graphic design, web work and social media for us. My wife is our event coordinator. Greg’s wife does the books for us and makes sure everything we are doing is counted for properly.
What is it like working with the community?
Dan: That is at the heart of what we want to do. This space isn’t just for our family and for our legacy but it’s for the legacy of the city. Having a church meet here on Thursdays and Sundays. Also, small groups, bible studies, and fundraisers – these events drive us! We are so passionate that, as a family, we are able to influence the city and community in such a great way.
How has COVID-19 affected you and the business?
Dan: Our first wedding was supposed to be August of 2020 and then our schedule was full until the end of 2021 basically. This project has been so well received that we were booking it at such a high level. It was super exciting but also a little bit scary. We had a great idea and feel we are very good at what we do but then again there are things to learn as you go through it. We have gotten the chance to slow slowly merge into it and work out those kinks before actually having three events per weekend.
Casey: It’s not all been negative but has stopped us from running our business.
Greg: It’s been challenging but we have had a lot of help from the community and our family.
How has the Champaign Center Partnership helped your business?
Greg: It’s a great network and place to get visibility. When we were just doing construction to roll out awareness that this was coming and the CCP was one of those mechanism that helped us make that happen.
Casey: I think it’s been good to help us connect with other small businesses that are outside the wedding scene. We know a lot of the photographers and videographers but when we go to one of those morning meets, we meet new people who aren’t a part of the wedding scene at all like the boutiques downtown. It’s been nice to connect with the business community downtown.
Dan: Our motto is support all things local. We have all these partnerships and the CCP has helped facilitate some of those.
Visit The Venue CU at www.thevenuecu.com to learn more about the venue, rental packages, and more.
Photo Credit: Darrell Hoemann Photography.