Jaw-dropping transformation from warehouse to wedding venue

While The Tinsmith’s grand opening will look a little different, the venue, like many others, is taking an inventive approach to the upcoming wedding season in the wake of COVID-19.

A significant piece of Madison’s architectural history was hidden in plain sight on East Main Street. Then two locals, who saw the beauty behind the structure’s blemishes, brought it back to life as one of Madison’s newest wedding and event venues, The Tinsmith, which hopes to celebrate a grand opening and its first few events once it’s safe again to gather. 

Flashback to the early 1920s when brothers George and Arthur Trachte were household names in the Midwest. Their large metal structures soared to the skies with signature barrel-vaulted roof designs that housed everything from gas stations to aircraft hangers. The simple, rustic design became a Madison staple, but so has their decline. Nature has reclaimed many of the tattered roofs as developers eye the next large development.  

Entrepreneurs Jessica Wartenweiler and Eric Welch saw potential in these historic structures. The Madison area natives often walked past the iconic Trachte building on East Main Street on their way to Robinia Courtyard. The two daydreamed of repurposing the building with their passion for, as Wartenweiler puts it, “turning old, neglected buildings into places of life and inspiration.” 

“We love the contrast of new and old buildings in the area and love all the energy and life that’s been brought back to the neighborhood,” says Wartenweiler. 

When the building became available in 2018, they purchased it. Old heating and cooling parts from the prior owners, Kleenaire Heating Wholesalers, were stacked to the ceiling, but the couple’s determination was stronger than the work that lay before them. 

“I would say most people thought we were crazy at this point for trying to save the building,” Wartenweiler says. “As we spent more and more time in the space, literally peeling back the layers of history, we came up with several different possibilities for how we could use the space before an event space became the clear winner.”

It didn’t take long for parts to start moving. The couple began working with an architect in early 2019 and hired a general contractor in July of that same year. Construction is set to finish this month on The Tinsmith. 

The Tinsmith will be a unique addition to the Madison private event space landscape, the owners say. It exists solely for personalized events from weddings to corporate gatherings. The minimalist, modern space allows for customization.

“There are many couples that don’t fit the aesthetic of either a barn wedding or a convention center wedding, and we offer a place for those couples,” Wartenweiler says.  

The Tinsmith’s first wedding was scheduled for June 13, but, like many other wedding dates, has been postponed due to the unknown status of COVID-19 safety orders. Tinsmith has now joined the many local players in the event planning industry that are having to improvise through a period of unparalleled and unanticipated uncertainty, which largely remains at a standstill with no guaranteed date of return.   

“As of today, only 4% of our customers have completely canceled their event due to COVID-19,” says Sarah Mullins, co-founder of A La Crate Rentals, a rental service based in Monona. “Thirty-four percent of 2020 events, however, have rescheduled. Of those, about half are choosing another date in 2020 and the other half have pushed their event out to 2021.” 

Despite the circumstances, complete cancelations have not been the prevailing option. 

“From what we have gathered so far, a lot of people have rescheduled through the end of June, and we are getting calls for July, August, September brides who are putting out the feelers for the what-ifs,” says Robert Copley, sales manager of Event Essentials, another local rental company.  

It is a complex and stressful time to be a part of the wedding industry and, certainly, for those who had their special day planned in the next couple of months. But, event planners are stepping up to offer inventive ways to provide an unforgettable wedding experience. 

“We have put together Zoom calls, some talking to brides about changes or rescheduling their wedding,” says Copley. “We are telling our customers we are going to be as flexible as possible because we understand the importance of their wedding day. It’s such an emotional time in their life and for a lot of people it’s one of the most important days of their lives.”

The Tinsmith has rolled out a ‘microwedding’ package for couples, which offers an intimate ceremony for less than 10 people in the space’s greenhouse. This option seems fitting for those who want to complete their nuptials sooner rather than later. There is even an option to include family and friends with a professional private livestream. 

While this wedding season has surely be different this year, planners, venue owners and brides and grooms alike continue to look on the bright side. It may be some time before the next big get-together, but wedding industry professionals are doing their best to keep relationships strong. 

“We are seeing exceptional demand for bookings in 2021, which tells me people are more than ever looking forward to celebrating with family and friends when we make it through this,” Wartenweiler says.