The Sycamore Mallow Run’s New Event Venue
Writer / Joyce Long
Photographer / Ron Stiemert
Last summer when Mallow Run Winery was rocking with its Saturday night festivities, John Richardson, one of the winery’s three co-owners, snuck away to a calmer setting. With a decibel reader, he tested if the live band’s music would carry a quarter of a mile southwest of the winery. Why?
In less than a year, weddings would happen simultaneously on that plot. A Richardson family dream of building a new event venue would soon become reality.
A few weeks later, Mallow Run broke ground September 2015 to begin construction on The Sycamore, a facility for weddings, parties and professional events. This came after years of inquiries to use the winery for special events with many wanting Saturday weddings, a time already allocated to the winery’s annual Picnic Concert Series.
The family wanted Mallow Run to be a winery first and foremost, so its schedule was prioritized. Yet, with a 600-acre farm, space was still available to create another place for celebrations.
The winery and vineyard are located on approximately 25 acres while The Sycamore occupies 20 acres adjacent to the woods farther southwest. “We wanted it to seem very intimate, peaceful and private. Nothing about the winery will change. The two are close enough to be connected but far enough apart to operate separately,” said Sarah Shadday, Mallow Run’s marketing coordinator.
From Rustic to Black Tie
At 12,000 square feet, The Sycamore has two rooms and a gallery. The Estate Room, with over 4,700 square feet, is the largest, seating up to 250 for a wedding and over 300 for lecture-style setup. Its windows provide light bordering the north and west with a wide-angle western view. Patios wrap around the entire west and north sides of the building to provide access to all three main spaces.
The Estate Room features cedar timbers alongside natural stone columns and fireplaces. It also has a bridal dressing room and a man cave that can be used from the event’s beginning to its end.
For smaller gatherings, The Homestead Room, with over 1,500 square feet, can seat up to 80 people and is booked for smaller wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, business meetings, baby and bridal showers, anniversary and retirement parties. Its wall of windows and doors showcase native Sycamores, and dual skylights allow plenty of natural light. It also has a separate entrance, restrooms and patio access. The Gallery, with a full-service bar, works both as the main lobby and a mingling area for cocktail hours.
Since there is no on-site caterer, Venue Director Hannah Abraham provides customers a preferred vendor listing that includes Ralph & Ava’s Café and Catering, Food Guys and Sweet and Savory. The Sycamore also offers the option to use a different caterer for a fee. However, all caterers and food providers must be licensed by the State of Indiana.
Currently, Mallow Run has five full-time employees, along with three co-owners, John, Bill and Laura Richardson. Shadday estimates they hire 30 part-time employees, many who are teachers and only work during summers and weekends. For The Sycamore, they may hire more to help with maintenance.
“If you’re a Mallow Run employee, you’re an employee of both the winery and the event venue. As employees, we are like extended family,” Shadday explained.
She is excited about other event venues locating nearby. “It can only be good that more successful businesses come to Johnson County. It brings more buzz. Plus, each has its own personality. The Sycamore is more like a country lodge. We wanted it to be neutral to fit any theme—from rustic to black tie.”
The Sycamore’s first wedding was performed Saturday, July 30. The Sycamore can host indoor and outdoor weddings, featuring a chapel-style stone and cedar canopy and folding chairs with outdoor access for the reception to either The Estate or Homestead Rooms. For an additional fee, carriage rides through the vineyards and countryside are offered. As of early July, weddings have been booked every weekend through the end of October.
Looking into next year, several events have been booked for 2017. Besides weddings and receptions, the venue’s calendar consists of class reunions, fundraisers, luncheons, business meetings and after-hours events. Shadday hopes its central location and proximity to Bloomington, Martinsville and Franklin will attract businesses to use The Sycamore.
Being people-oriented is important to Mallow Run. “First and foremost, whether we’re talking about the winery or The Sycamore, our philosophy is focused on service to our community, our customers and our employees. We’re definitely people-driven. We serve as a place for folks to come to relax and slow down,” said Shadday.
Mallow Run has grown exceedingly more than the Richardson family first imagined. After 35 years of teaching high school English in southern Indiana, John moved back to his childhood home to grow grapes to supply other vineyards. The first grapes were planted in 2000, and now vineyards cover over eight acres of their farm. Along with premium beef from the farm’s cattle, more than 50,000 bushels of corn and soybeans are sold each year. But the family’s joy comes in sharing their seven-generation farm with folks needing a place to relax and celebrate.