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Nature's Connection

Lombardi's Restaurants makes an event venue purchase

It's interesting to watch what seasoned industry professionals do to stay current and broaden their business. In the case of Diane Simms (Wild Strawberry deli, Roanoke Exit, Ribbons, Lombardi's) and her daughter Kerri Lonergan-Dreke, now CEO of Lombardi's, they've purchased a primarily outdoor event venue.

Diane explains the reasoning behind the purchase: "We have been doing a lot of catering off-site from our restaurant locations - mostly at wedding venues around the area and saw how popular they are. Since catering is another revenue stream that has more predictable costs, we thought that having our own venue with the ability to cater 35 - 40 more weddings each year would be a great addition to our business. We have a Catering and Event Manager, Andrew Jorden, who brought this location and idea to us. He loves this business model and has a long background in catering. He has received wonderful reviews over the past three years he has worked for Lombardi's in that capacity, so we were confident of his ability to manage this venue and implement all the catering that we are doing. In addition, there were already bookings for this year and 2022 on the books. This year we have some availability in September and October. We are currently booking for 2022 and 2023. There are still a few Saturdays available in May through October with other weekend days available. In 2022 we hope to be able to offer services during the December holiday period. The purchase is also a real estate investment." Diane and Kerri have always been proponents of owning the property their businesses are on (they don't own Everett property; they do own Mill Creek).

Nature's Connection offers five acres of gardens, waterfalls, large ponds with bridges, and spacious manicured lawns. It is surrounded by 15,000 acres of forestland. Private indeed. "While any type of event can be held here, we do specialize in weddings," says Andrew. "Couples have the option to choose from several ceremony sites around the property."

A large white tent offers a covered space for tables and dancing/DJ/equipment. A separate Carriage House with plenty of natural light contains a fireplace, refrigerator, and some food prep space to be used by the catering team or the bridal party as you wish. "It's a wonderful property with a house for the on-site property manager and a two-room suite for the bride's party that is separate from the Carriage House," says Diane. Brides can get ready for the big ceremony using a full bathroom, dressing room, mirrors for makeup and hair preparation, relaxation (couches, chairs, TV, mini-fridge, and microwave). There's also an outdoor bar with cocktail tables.

Rental of the venue can be as long as 12 hours and start as early as 9 a.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, events must be over by 10 p.m., and cleanup finished by 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, events must be over by 8 p.m., with cleanup finished by 9 p.m. They have preferred vendors for music, linens, table settings, make up, cakes, photographers, florists, making it easy to arrange everything in one place.

Concept Catering by Lombardi's provides food service (there is a fee for using outside caterers). "Due to zoning restrictions, we can't have a commercial kitchen. We're planning to have our mobile kitchen onsite for events. We hope to have the kitchen ready to go by next spring. With that we will have the ability to have three to four themed menus - Italian (of course); American, such as steaks and seafood, burgers etc.; barbecue; and Mexican. Within each of these themes will be three menu options with different price points guests can choose from. We are expecting to hold farm-to-table wine dinners here also. There are several wineries we have contacted about these - one being Bayernmoore Cellars, a recent addition to Woodin Creek Village in Woodinville. We'll also offer family and business retreats with food service here as well as at our restaurant locations."

The venue is currently open from the first week in May through the middle of October and can accommodate up to 200 people. Guests can arrange their own event or use the Nature's Connection team to coordinate. "We are open to other events besides weddings," notes Diane. "We'll soon have bocci ball courts, croquet, and beach volleyball, great for family reunions high school graduation parties and corporate events. The setting is serene and very quiet for reflection, or you can turn up the music and party. The casinos are minutes away with transportation that can be arranged."

If you're looking for a beautiful, private outdoor (with some indoor) space for an event, Nature's Connection may be your spot. Call for a tour.

Connie Adams/September 2021

Nature's Connection
27225 71st Ave NE
Arlington, WA 98223
Tours by appointment

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