ASTORIA — The company running the Astoria Event Center reports a strong first full year despite little capital for promoting the venue.
Cyndi Mudge, president of Columbia Bar Productions, said year over year bookings are up for all months except December, with most at double the previous year.
“That’s sometimes hard to see when you’re swimming through the forest,” she said.
The facility was purchased by Luottamus Partners LLC in August 2013. Mudge has spent the time since then learning the idiosyncrasies of the building, fixing a few things, painting and promoting it any way she can.
The experience has been a reminder not to go into a business under-capitalized, she said. It needed more budget for promotion. Still, she managed to get bookings.
“I’m happy with rentals considering I had zero dollars to work with,” she said.
With no money for advertising Mudge relied on sandwich boards, social media, postcards, word of mouth and just hitting the pavement and talking to people to get the word out.
Competition has gotten stiffer since the Event Center reopened. The Astoria Armory and the Loft at the Red Building are back in business and competing for events along with other venues such as the Liberty Theater, the Elks Club and the Performing Arts Center.
Mudge said each is finding its own niche. The Event Center is a place where visitors can toss peanut shells on the floor and spill their drinks without fear of ruining an expensive rug. They can put stuff on the walls and decorate without incurring a big cleanup fee, she said. It reflects the type of events the facility draws.
“Our niche is a down-to-earth party facility,” Mudge said. “We have weddings and pro wrestling in the same week; you can’t get more eclectic than that.”
Monthly events include PNPW Pro Wrestling and a Mexican Community Dance. They provide revenue the business can count on, she said.
Mudge used to hire help to set up and clean up.
“It got to the point that everybody was getting paid except me,” she said.
Now she does as much as she can herself.
“The glamour of having your own business is really mopping floors, scrubbing toilets and [stacking chairs],” she said.
In addition to helping her turn a profit, it helped her get to know the facility better and showed her the equipment and what needed to be repaired or replaced.
“Especially when starting out, it’s not a bad idea to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself for awhile,” she said.
Renters can save substantially by setting up tables and chairs and putting them away after the event.
Mudge hopes to do more event planning herself through her company in 2015. Columbia Bar Productions coordinates the annual Seaside Holiday Fair among other local events. The Port of Call Bistro and Bar next door makes it easier to coordinate catering at the Event Center, Mudge said.
The restaurant, formerly the Shipyard Inn, opened in July with James Sawyer at the helm. He has a catering license, so it’s easier for him to handle the food aspect, she said.
Mudge’s company gets a 10 percent service charge on catering.
Mudge hopes to improve August and September bookings this year. Weddings kept July booked well, she said, but outdoor activities left rentals weaker at the end of summer.
She also wants to fill the midweek vacancies with hourly rentals. The space rents for $30 an hour for low-level needs and would be great for meetings, classes, even band rehearsals, Mudge said.
For more information on availability and rates call Mudge at 503-791-5843 or visit the website at www.astoriaeventcenter.com.