When Event Elements, Wichita Event Rentals owners Brandy and Jesse Zogleman first considered buying the longtime Cowie Electric building downtown, they wanted it to be an office for their business along with a warehouse and showroom for the party items they rent and sell.
On her final walk-through of the building at 230 S. Topeka, which is just west of Intrust Bank Arena, Brandy Zogleman says she really began noticing exposed beams and brick in the 1920 building.
“Oh, my gosh, we have to make this a venue,” she says she thought. “We had always wanted to do a venue.”
So the two are opening Brick & Mortar, Wichita’s Event Venue in the building’s 17,000 square feet along with the rest of the business.
“I love the look of the old buildings and the history behind it,” Brandy Zogleman says. “There’s not a ton of buildings in Wichita that have kept the history.”
As she began remodeling the space, Zogleman says, she kept discovering more hidden historical gems.
“By accident, the demolition guys hit the … old, old, old insulation, and we found this wood underneath there, and I’m like, that is too cool.”
She’s restoring the wood and brick to their original states and will stain the floors and cover some of them in old cargo and boxcar flooring.
“There’s actually flooring from boxcars back 100 years ago,” Zogleman says. “It’s very hard to come by.”
She also found a skylight that has concrete over it.
“Why anybody ever covered up this skylight is mind-blowing to me,” Zogleman says. “Our goal is to open that up. … Especially for weddings, it’ll be really neat to have that.”
There are three vintage fire doors – the kind that new construction tries to replicate for looks instead of purpose these days – that Zogleman is keeping.
“I’m incorporating anything that’s historical that we possibly can.”
Zogleman says she hired a historic preservationist and is trying to get the building listed on historic registries.
In addition to showroom space in the front of the building and event space in the back, Zogleman says, she’s petitioning the city to get the alley vacated in the back of the building by the arena so she can install a structured tent to use as pre- and post-concert event space and extra outdoor space for events that she holds indoors.
Zogleman says she sees the arena’s acts picking up and is already making plans for the NCAA tournament games that will be held there next year.
“We’ve got some really big plans for that.”
She says the space potentially would be able to seat up to 2,000 people or can be configured for smaller events.
Zogleman says she sees indications that city officials will be willing to work with her on the outdoor space.
“I really think that they see the benefit and the fact that it’s going to be an improvement to downtown Wichita.”
Bree Maybee of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the sale of the building.
Zogleman says she plans to have an open house in April and will begin having events in earnest in May.
Like with a lot of remodeling projects, Zogleman says there have been some unforeseen expenses and delays.
For instance, even though the building used to house an electric business, Zogleman says it didn’t have adequate power.
The almost 5-year-old business is adding floral services with the new site.
Zogleman says the business has evolved quite a bit in a short time.
Though it’s a slower season for Event Elements, which does a lot of weddings and nonprofit events, Zogleman says she’s still having to juggle quite a bit while working on the business and remodeling the new space.
“We’re officing out of laptops and home and here and there.”
She says she’s thrilled to be part of a developing downtown, though.
“I think there’s a lot of potential down here, so I think in the next couple of years you’re really going to see it boom.”