Boutique Venue

Renovating a church into a venue space

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When KELLY LANDERS walked into the empty space in the Cargo District, she knew it was the venue she’d always wanted for her business, Maven Monroe Events.

“I’d been searching for a few years for a venue,” Landers says, adding she took her time to look for something because it was right and not necessarily because it was available.

Maven Monroe Events is the culmination of a dream Landers has had for over 15 years. A veteran of the service industry, she learned the business from the bottom up. By working for various companies, she mastered both catering and events planning, and she previously served as events planner for the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

However, when Landers moved to Wilmington (she’s lived in the Port City off and on for more than 15 years), it was time to strike out on her own; and the vacant space in the Cargo District was all she needed to do so. Landers knew she could make the space reflect her vision for an events venue.

“The (venue) provides something different from what is around the area,” says Landers. “It was built in the 1950s and doesn’t have exposed brick walls like everything else here. It’s neutral, pretty, and very elegant.”

However, turning the space into the venue Landers envisioned took a lot of work.

“I picked out everything from paint color to flooring to the bathroom tiles to the partitions,” Landers says. “I love to decorate, and I had visions of what I wanted it to look like. I sat on the floor In Home Depot and laid the tile down to see what looked good together.”

The result is a clean, natural space that can be adapted for weddings, wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, and corporate and private parties. The reception area, which accommodates 85, can be set up for seating; dining; or dancing, complete with a spot for a DJ or small band.

“Event planners can be creative,” Landers says. “What people can do with this space is endless.”

The reception area makes decorating easy. Its white walls and light-colored, chevron flooring accommodates any color scheme or decor. It can be dressed up simply with candles or serve as a backdrop for elaborate decorations and/or floral arrangements. The five rose-gold chandeliers add a touch of glamour to the setting.

The bridal suite is an oasis of charm. There are two full-length ornate mirrors for primping, lounges, and comfy chairs for relaxing and settling pre-wedding nerves, and hooks for dresses and other finery.

There’s even an area for the groom and groomsmen. If they have the ok, they can settle in at a small bar with a drink. Otherwise, they can kick back on plump chairs and couches.

Other details make it easier for staff to do their jobs and for events to run smoothly. For example, caterers and event planners work in a special, designated area where they are not seen, and electrical plugs on the ceiling make string lighting easy and unobtrusive.

With Maven Monroe Events, Landers brings a new concept in event venues to the area that surprise and delight brides and other party hosts, according to Landers.

“I like to see my clients smile when they come in, especially when they see the space for the first time,” says Landers. “You can almost see the wheels turning as they imagine what they can, and want, to do.”

Correction: This article has been updated to say that Landers previously worked at Hotel del Coronado.

To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to

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Categories: Features