As Pinery business grows, so do Fish Market plans

Filed under: Print,Small Business | Tags:, ,

Owners of The Pinery in Black Forest plan to build a $9 million event center where the former Fish Market stands. Owners are seeking project investors to fund the renovations.

The Pinery’s full-service wedding and event business in Black Forest has grown so dramatically over the last three years that one executive says the economic collapse saved the business from expanding too little, too soon.

In August 2008, The Pinery purchased the old Fish Market building that is perched atop the hill at 775 W. Bijou St. overlooking downtown Colorado Springs with plans to turn it into a wedding and event center. The business even had building permits. It still does.

Then the bottom fell out of the economy and funding dried up. The former restaurant has sat empty and boarded up since, brewing controversy about its security and propensity to draw vandals and vagrants into the surrounding neighborhood.

The plans to turn the hilltop location into a “Four Seasons-esque” wedding and events center are still in place, but they’ve gotten bigger, said Vice President of Operations Eric Allen, who is counting on investors to make the plans a reality.

“It’s a blessing we waited three years,” he said. “Now we know we need more room and more space to allow us to do more volume.”

He said the Pinery will submit revised plans and intends to add a second floor and another ballroom to its proposed event center and exclusive club.

The new plan calls for the Pinery at the Hill to house about 20,000 square feet of wedding and event space, Allen said. It will include seven private conference rooms, two ballrooms and four boardrooms.

The Pinery has historically focused on weddings. But in its downtown location, Allen said the business could expand into a new realm.

“We’ll go after more corporate events,” he said. “If you look, there’s not enough space for the business community. You’re kind of held to the hotels and downtown there’s just the Antlers. That’s not enough.”

The price tag for the project has been estimated to be between $7 million $9 million. The increased scope of the work to be done can account for the higher cost.

Allen said the Pinery owns the building, which it bought outright for $1.75 million in 2008. And now he needs only to raise the $9 million from private investors to start renovations. He said the Pinery has secured about half the needed money and fundraising has picked up a lot of speed.

Allen said he expects to be able to begin work on the location in early 2012.

The growth into the new downtown location would continue building on momentum the Pinery has built up in recent years. Earlier this year, the Pinery bought the Alpine Chef catering business and has expanded its offerings at its Black Forest location.

“We did 109 weddings last year and we’re going to do even more this year,” Allen said. “There’s nobody in the country doing what we’re doing.”

Allen said the Pinery has absorbed other businesses and incorporated them into the Pinery so it can provide full-service weddings, providing everything from the web site and invitations to the flowers, catering, photography and music.

“We have six full-time event coordinators,” he said. “And we have four executive chefs on staff.”

Keeping it all in house allows the Pinery to charge affordable all-inclusive rates for weddings, which has led to the businesses’ big growth.

“We’ve grown dramatically in the last four years,” Allen said. “And our contracts keep going up with what we’re offering.”

Allen said that this expansion into downtown should be the first step in even broader expansion into other parts of the state and throughout the country.

While the transformed Fish Market location will be a wedding and event center just like the Pinery in Black Forest, it will have a different feel, Allen said.

“The Black Forest location is more for people who want a setting in the pines, in the forest,” Allen said. “And downtown is more of a cutting-edge feel.”

He aims to bring an element of Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons contemporary glamour and exclusiveness to the location that will be different from the rustic feel of the Black Forest location and from competitors like The Broadmoor.

“The Broadmoor is more old-world,” Allen said.

He hopes to be able to invite the neighborhood into the center through special Sunday brunches on occasions like Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. And he’d like to use other buildings in the area to bring life to the surrounding neighborhood. He has proposed turning a nearby yellow Victorian house into a speakeasy jazz club.