CRANBERRY TWP — There's a plan of action when contractors begin building a house. First, they lay the foundation. Then, they frame it. The rest of the house follows, bit by bit.
The venue is the foundation in event planning. And when Noah's Event Venue in Cranberry Township abruptly closed its doors last week, whole events fell apart.
“The first thing you do is find a place,” said John Marshall, chef and owner of John Marshall Catering. “There's nothing more tragic than to walk up to the doors and find them locked.”
John Marshall Catering was one of Noah's preferred local vendors. The Gibsonia-based company handles an estimated 24 weddings and countless other events per year.
Marshall runs a full-service catering company. But with the abrupt closing of Noah's, his team has been stepping outside its regular duties.
“We're trying to get people a venue,” Marshall said, “to help the customers.”
When Marshall first heard the news about Noah's, he and his team began calling brides.
The caterer lost the business of two right away due to scheduling. His other wedding parties have been analyzing their options.
A few local venues are going so far as to offer potential clients discounts if they agree to switch event dates or locations.
“Some people are really stepping up big time,” Marshall said.
One of those people is Jim Marron, co-owner of Allegheny Grille in Foxburg, Clarion County.
When Marron heard about Noah's closing, he decided to open his doors to displaced events.
Allegheny Grille is a “destination restaurant” that can seat more than 100 people in different indoor banquet settings. Events held outdoors have catered to as many as 250 people at a time.
“It's a small community,” Marron said. “But there's lots of choices.”
Marron believes Foxburg's scenic locale, local hotel and close businesses will offer those who lost their spot at Noah's something new and beautiful. Atmosphere is what Allegheny Grille receives the most compliments on, according to Marron.
“There's no regrets,” Marron said of his visitors's satisfaction. “We're very reasonable.”
Marron said Allegheny Grille has weddings booked into 2021. But what the venue can offer last-minute customers, it will. Marron said his staff is willing to work with people who are seeking a new location for any type of event.
“We would invite them just to come up,” Marron said. “It's important that you know that you're going to have a place to go.”
Planning an event is not just a business transaction, according to Marshall. It's about making connections with people and their stories.
When things like the closing of Noah's happens, those connections are damaged and other business owners are left to conduct damage control.
“It doesn't happen very often,” Marshall said. “It's very stressful.”
John Marshall Catering has four crews and eight full-time employees, with additional people on “call-up.”
Marshall has learned over the years to diversify. It's safer, he explained, to work different types of events instead of sticking to just weddings. In December, John Marshall Catering had 95 events. This month, the company has about 40.
Noah's closing hasn't affected Marshall the way it has affected the people planning to use the venue. But it does make an impact. A single catering event can bring in between $4,000 and $10,000.
“We'll get through it,” Marshall said. “We're trying to do our best.”
Marshall advises event planners to do their homework before choosing service companies. Asking questions about how long an event service has been in business and talking to customers who have used it before are good ways to judge a company's character.
Marron advises a more direct approach: He tells potential customers to call Allegheny Grille's events coordinator.
“He's very, very particular,” Marron said. “We'll make it work.”
Both Marron and Marshall are, in their own ways, trying to make the best of an unexpected situation. Those affected by Noah's closing are encouraged to be creative, find new venues and ask questions.
“We'll be more than willing to help,” Marshall said.