McHENRY – John Smith was looking to attract more people to downtown McHenry.
The McHenry resident then bought the former Hostess building in summer 2014. Smith said that when he bought the vacant building, he knew he wanted to use it to help out the city, but he didn’t initially intend to turn it into a venue for events.
“As I started refurbishing it and it took shape, I started realizing that there were a few good uses for it, and one of them I thought of was to turn it into an event center,” Smith said.
After undergoing exterior and interior renovations, Smith’s Central Garage officially opened in March. The garage is located at 3315 Pearl St., McHenry, across the street from Veterans Memorial Park.
With 3,500 square feet of flexible meeting and banquet space, Smith’s Central Garage can host weddings, showers, birthday parties, family parties, holiday parties and corporate events.
“I really wanted to do something for the city and have a McHenry gathering spot,” Smith said. “We’ve even had bouncy houses in this building, where adults could bring their kids. The building’s big enough to put them inside.”
Amenities provided by the event center include a catering kitchen with a commercial refrigerator and freezer, tables, chairs, garbage disposal, free WiFi and a sound system. The venue is handicap accessible.
“We are kind of a blank canvas,” venue manager Jillian Giese said. “We have it so you get to bring in your own food, drink and decorations. We have it so it’s really flexible for different events.”
To get the word out to the public and show people what it has to offer, Smith’s Central Garage held an open house Thursday night.
“This is proof that the city can become vibrant once again,” Smith said. “I think that’s a very important message that downtowns can be rebuilt and reinvigorated.”
The new business is working with the city to get a permit to install sprinklers, which will allow the venue’s capacity to expand to about 300 people, Smith said.
Smith also is planning to add an outdoor seating area.
The venue center’s rates are $75 an hour Mondays through Thursdays and $125 an hour Fridays through Sundays.
Reservations can be made by visiting www.smithscentralgarage.com.