Party PeopleMay 01, 2019 ● By Lisa Sciortino
Back then, the Frisco resident worked as an information technology clinical educator. She traveled to hospitals in cities around the nation training physicians and other operating-room staffers how to utilize software systems. Also, a bride-to-be at the time, weekends were spent planning her then-upcoming wedding to Jeff Holtman, a project manager with whom she tied the knot last June.
For assistance with the latter, Ms. Holtman turned to Jason Lewis, the owner of Five Star Event Services and the Venue at McKinney Town Center in McKinney. Amid selecting the perfect table linens, floral arrangements and entrée choices for her wedding ceremony and reception, the pair formed an unexpected friendship. “When I met him, it was just like we instantly clicked. Everything he said, his vision,” she recalls. “He wanted to work with me on what I wanted, not push what he wanted on me, and I really appreciated that.”
As brides sometimes do, Ms. Holtman shed a few tears on her wedding day, but not for the reasons that most would expect. “It was the end of my reception. We had done our last dance, we had done our send off and Jason was inside (the venue) cleaning up. I went back inside and I was crying. I said to him, ‘We can still be friends, right, even though my wedding is over?’ And he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, yes!’”
Within months, their friendship evolved into an unlikely business partnership. In December 2018, the two became co-owners/operators of the Venue at Frisco Town Center, a full-service event center located near downtown Frisco.
In the space (which las long been an events center previously called Stone Creek Terrace and later, The Vine), they host a variety of private soirees from weddings and anniversary celebrations to bar mitzvahs and holiday parties, as well as events that are open to the public, such as a recent family-friendly Easter brunch service and the slate of live music and entertainment offerings that are scheduled in coming months.
A Chicago-area native who moved to Frisco in 2015, Ms. Holtman says she had considered making a career change for a while. “I had been traveling and living out of a suitcase for five years and wanted to do something different. Operating rooms and clinical education are very cut and dry, and I felt a little bit like I was withering inside.” Planning her own wedding “was really fun for me, and I wanted to try something a little more creative.” That is why she approached Mr. Lewis about starting an event-planning business of their own.
An alum of the University of Tampa in Fla., Mr. Lewis is a veteran North Texas event planner. “Being trusted to execute all the moving parts of a client’s dream wedding is truly an honor and privilege, and when you love what you do, well, it seems a lot less like work.” He also was looking to “mix things up a little” in his career when he met Ms. Holtman. “She had these ideas and wondered whether I would ever consider us doing business together,” he recalls. “We had a couple of opportunities in front of us,” which included opening the Venue at Frisco Town Center. “From the minute we pulled up, we just fell in love with the area and the property. We knew this was going to be our baby.”
In the months since they have made improvements to its indoor and outdoor spaces, which accommodate up to 150 people, depending upon the event being produced. The pair recently had a new 900-square-foot pergola constructed around the trunk of a mature shade tree. Additional improvements are planned at the 6,500-square-foot property, which boasts lush landscaping and a trickling creek.
Construction is also underway on The Patio at The Rail, a forthcoming retail, restaurant and office district being developed by Nack Development and located directly adjacent to the Venue at Frisco Town Center. “That was my biggest (decision) driver of coming down here,” Mr. Lewis says. “I love the vibe that is happening in downtown Frisco. I love that the city is widening the sidewalks and not the streets – that is foot-friendly. I love that we are wrapped around what is going to be known as the new East Pipeline. This building will be sitting in the middle of it.”
Many of the events Mr. Lewis and Ms. Holtman have planned for the space are designed for public enjoyment. For example, on most Wednesday evenings, the place will transform into a hip spot with live music, adult beverages and a locally-sourced, tapas-inspired menu where folks can hang out for a couple of hours and listen to classy, nice music. “I do not see a lot of other event centers partnering with the community to do community things,” he says. “To be able to do something a little bit more fun and in the realm of conceptual events or performance-type events like concerts is going to be really exciting.”
One of the pair’s goals for the event center, which strives to be eco-friendly by following extensive recycling practices, is to ensure that all members of the community feel welcome there. “This is definitely a judgment-free zone,” Ms. Holtman says. The picturesque space recently served as the backdrop for a family portrait-taking event sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) of North Texas.
“I really like meeting all of our clients and the variety of different events is really fun,” Ms. Holtman shares. “When I do a tour (of the property), I ask people right off the bat, ‘Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your fiancé. How did you guys meet?’ I customize each tour to the person because I want to make sure they get what they are looking for.”
Between Mr. Lewis’ event-planning expertise and Ms. Holtman’s technology savvy, the duo’s partnership has so far proven to be successful. “Like any other good business model,” he says, “Allison and I bring different business strengths to the table, which makes our relationship work extremely well.”
Ms. Holtman says she has “really been able to streamline some processes” that the business utilizes, while Mr. Lewis “brings the creative. He has such an eye for things. It has really been a great combination. He knows this industry and I come to it with some fresh eyes.” Meanwhile, working alongside a friend “has been really nice. I had been warned about going into business with a friend, but it has been really great.”
While it is a far cry from the stress level of her former career, Ms. Holtman says that learning how to roll with whatever an event throws at you has kept her on her toes this year. Each shindig is very different. “I just try to stay two steps ahead of what is going to happen. In the end, you just make sure everyone is comfortable.” And, of course, that they are having a good time.