The below story was originally published on Aug. 9, 2021 by RETHOS. The story has been re-published below with permission, and can be found in its original form here.
Upon entering the stunning reception space at the 3Ten Event Venue’s new Rooftop Loft in Faribault it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago the roof of that very same building was currently on the floor. “We bought [the building] for $27,000 as-is in November 2019. The previous owner had an estimate of $300K just to repair damage,” shared 3Ten owner Ryan Ernster. Ryan, along with his wife Jenny, had already begun to fill downtown Faribault with people in their original space, The 3Ten Event Venue, before they even purchased the Rooftop Loft, which is immediately next door. “We actually had a wedding going on when the roof next door collapsed. The fire department came, we had to pause the celebration, but everyone was ok, and the party continued after making sure the building was secure. I’m sure they got some good photos with all the firetrucks.”
Ryan and Jenny purchased the building in November 2017, and with a relatively quick turnaround were hosting weddings by April 2018. “It was hard to convey our early vision to couples when they were walking them through an old store before we made renovations,” laughed Ryan. The Ernsters had owned a wedding décor business in the metro area for 15 years before taking on the ownership of an event venue, so had deep knowledge of the wedding and events industry. They knew they wanted to have an event venue with a lot of history, and downtown Faribault was exactly the place they wanted to be. Ryan himself is a real estate agent and does construction and his father is a licensed contractor, which put them in an excellent position for rehabbing an old space into a venue. “I love old buildings, old photos, history in general,” Ryan explained when asked why they went down the path of event venue ownership in a old building. “The feeling and ambiance of an event venue in a historical venue is just better than a banquet room, plus, building new can’t get you the vibe of an old place.”
The walls of 3Ten are filled with old photos, many of them from the Faribault Historical Society’s archives. The Ernsters salvaged what they could, and reused pieces in the space. The old blends seamlessly into the new. One challenge they faced was access to the rooftop and upstairs event area. Elevators are expensive, and it was an absolute need to have a way to get folks and equipment upstairs. Ryan found a lift option that was much lower cost than a traditional elevator, but could only go a maximum of 14 feet. To make this lift work they added a ramp on the main floor to go up the final few inches. This innovative solution saved them thousands of dollars, and is keeping the space fully accessible.
“It was affordable, Faribault is familiar, and the city was so incredibly helpful. They [the city] were supportive both financially and making it happen in general, like the conditional use permit for us to have the rooftop patio space. It’s been the opposite of ‘you can’t fight city hall.’”
When the Ernsters purchased the 3Ten Rooftop Loft they went to the city and shared their goal for the space. The city came back with support for the project--$50,000 from their Economic Development Authority, plus $50,000 from the Housing Redevelopment Authority. However, they had to make the argument that although it wasn’t housing, it was important redevelopment for downtown. In turn, a member of the HRA suggested one pro-bono event per quarter for 10 years if the funds were approved, and the Ernsters jumped at the chance. “We’re hosting the Heritage Days Governor’s Ball this summer, and I really hope the city takes us up on hosting events every quarter,” shared Ryan. “It’s good to get locals into the space. Right now 90% of our clients come from the Twin Cities, but the more locals we get in, they might have a niece getting married next summer and tell them to check us out. That’s what I like about small town helpfulness—you’re not just a number here.”
The Covid-19 Pandemic hit the 3Ten hard. “After the first closure we never expected it to happen again. And then it did. But things are picking back up now, people are feeling more confident again.” It’s challenging and more expensive and time consuming, but once the building is up and running it’s been great feedback. It’s nice to be in the place we are. Brides near and far comment on downtown all the time.
All the townsfolks are concerned about parking; have had two instances with double events (one in each space) and there has been zero comments about parking availability from event attendees. Parking just isn’t an issue for us. You can’t get that in the cities. It’s a luxury amenity.”
What does Ryan love most about the 3Ten building and running a business in a historic downtown? He says “The pressed tin ceilings. Plus the doors, window, and transoms. They’re all original. It’s challenging and expensive and time consuming [to run a business in a historic downtown building], but once the building is up and running it’s been great feedback. It’s nice to be in the place we are.”
Congratulations to Ryan and Jenny on their incredible space in downtown Faribault! Learn more about the 3Ten Event space at https://www.3teneventvenue.com/