published Friday, September 7th, 2012

Downtown venue, The Mill, gets new management

Tara Plumlee, Sheryl Friedman and Shirley Camp, from left, of A Silverware Affair look at display booths at the 2012 Expo Chattanooga seminar at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Wednesday. Their company won a 2012 Small Business Award.
Tara Plumlee, Sheryl Friedman and Shirley Camp, from left, of A Silverware Affair look at display booths at the 2012 Expo Chattanooga seminar at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Wednesday. Their company won a 2012 Small Business Award.
Photo by John Rawlston.

THE MILL

For more information on The Mill event venue, visit TheMillofChattanooga.com or call 423-634-0331.

One of Chattanooga's oldest event venues is under new management.

The Mill, a 112-year-old drug manufacturing building turned Southside event space, was bought by local caterer Tara Plumlee last month. Plumlee plans to have The Mill, located at 1601 Gulf St. off Main, become an all-inclusive event space that will provide its own food and alcohol service.

Plumlee's business, The Catering Companies, owns The Car Barn venue and A Silverware Affair catering, which has been a preferred vendor for The Mill since 2007. She has watched The Car Barn grow as an event space for two years and recently decided to expand her company's venue offerings.

"The Car Barn is getting busier, and there's only so many days in a year," she said. "When The Mill came up, it seemed like a really good fit."

Venue owners often struggle when they offer nothing but a space to rent. Plumlee expects The Mill will become a higher-quality, more profitable business by incorporating her catering expertise into the space.

"Venues, without selling other services, have to fund the mortgage, they have to pay all the bills. There's not as much room for them to make money," she said. "We tried to pick up The Mill and add other services to it and give more variety for our clients."

The 450-seat space will provide its own menu and give guests the option of having bar service, renting dinnerware, sound equipment, TVs and a variety of other services typical of a wedding- and corporate-event-oriented venue.

Plumlee expects her experience in the business and partnership with the adjacent Sculpture Fields at Montague Park will set her site apart from other area venues.

She and Donyale Grove, the park's executive director, are figuring out ways the two organizations can work together. Grove expects the park will be used for a variety of events, including weddings, concerts, plays and health classes, and said The Mill would fit well as a reception site connected to some of those events.

Over the coming months, she hopes to see even more development in the Southside area.

"Already that area has a real flair for the arts," she said. "We're hopeful and expectant that Sculpture Fields will be a catalyst to that growth."

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