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Rustic Chic Retreat: A cozy place to gather

Event venue in Durand plays host to baby showers, birthday parties and more

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February 19, 2024

DURAND – After 33 years of working on their family farm, Wendy Brantner said she and her husband passed the reins over to their son a few years back – a life change that led to a new career that she said is both fulfilling to her and benefits those in the community.

“I got married at 18 and went right into farming with my husband,” she said. “We milk cows – my son is now the fourth generation on that.”

Soon after selling the farm to their son, Brantner said she and her husband bought property that included a “man cave,” which she said flipped a switch in her head.

“Walking in that room – I love to craft – I was like, ‘this would be perfect to do my crafting classes or get together with my sisters and do crafting,’” she said. 

From that moment, Brantner said she and her husband spent the next two years transforming the space for her to be able to hold crafting classes – eventually leading to the opening of Rustic Chic Retreat, which opened at N7080 Albany A, in Durand in 2021.

Brantner said though the first class she held was “pretty good,” those that followed didn’t have as great a turnout as she would have liked – leading her to pivot. 

And, thanks to a friend of hers, Brantner said she was presented with an opportunity to make better use of the space.

“The following spring, in April 2022, a friend contacted me wanting to know if I was willing to rent out my space to do a baby shower,” she said. 

That request, she said, led her to transition the focus of Rustic Chic Retreat into an event venue.

“(The space has been) rented out to do baby showers, bridal showers – I’ve done a couple of graduations – family reunions,” she said.

An affordable events space

Coming from a background in dairy farming, Brantner said she understands it can be difficult to have extra funds to pay for something like an events space, which is why she said she keeps her prices low, at $20 an hour.

“I know how hard it is – you work for your money, there isn’t a lot of money leftover to do things,” she said. “I’m watching what costs are to people and don’t want to rip them off.”

She said many people have told her she should charge more to rent out the space at Rustic Chic Retreat, but said it’s important to her “to keep it affordable.”

“You can put a price tag on it, but if nobody rents it, what’s the point of having that price tag on there because then it sits empty,” she said.

Describing the space as an intimate gathering space, Brantner said Rustic Chic Retreat seats 38 people in the main room.

There is also a kitchenette that can seat six additional people, as well as a lounging area.

“(In the kitchenette), I have a beverage dispenser, I have galvanized tubs to put water and pop in,” she said. “I have purchased cut glass serving trays and bowls… I’ve purchased many sets of china dishes. Those all are available for them to use at no (additional) cost.”

When a patron rents out the space, Brantner said they can bring whatever they’d like for food and drink (including alcohol) and whatever decorations they want – as long as they don’t put holes in the walls.

Though, Brantner said she’s happy to help with decorations.

“I will decorate all the side tables for people,” she said. “I’ll ask them what their theme is. I’ve (collected) quite a stash of decorations.”

Focused on keeping costs low, Brantner said she’s become “thrifty” with sourcing and crafting decorations with clients.

“I go thrift store shopping and look for things that will go with those themes and colors,” she said. “I strictly keep that my costs. I want it to be pretty. I want people to walk in and think, ‘this is cool.’”

Brantner said some of the themes she worked with include an under-the-sea theme for a baby shower, a winter wonderland theme for a birthday party and an enchanted forest theme for a bridal shower.

Though the focus of her decorating efforts are for her patrons, Brantner said it also provides her with an opportunity to be creative, which brings her joy.

“I love to decorate – it’s an outlet for me,” she said. “Farming for 30-some years, it was just my husband and I, and as our kids grew up, they helped us. We did it all and never took a vacation. There was no time off. This is my outlet now, finally, where I can do fun and exciting things for me.”

It’s all about the customers

Since transitioning Rustic Chic Retreat into an events space, Brantner said the response has been “very nice.”

She said it’s important to her to do the best job she can for her clients.

“I had one gal that rented from me… and she was helping out with a bridal shower,” she said. “The maid of honor was coming from Fargo, North Dakota… (So, I asked), ‘do you want me to decorate for her?’ And she said, ‘if you can, that would be fine.’”

The bride-to-be’s theme, Brantner said, was sage green and dusty blue, colors she didn’t have at the time.

“I had a couple of months to work with it, so I ended up buying a bunch of white artificial flowers I dyed in her colors,” she said. “I picked things up off of (Facebook) Marketplace like table runners, and I didn’t tell them that.”

When the bride showed up, Brantner said she was totally surprised. 

“When they came, everything was in her colors,” she said. “She walked in and she (said)… ‘these are my colors.’ And she burst into tears. That was the best.”

Brantner said she’s also had repeat customers who have rented out four to five times for a variety of different events.

Cute cows and other events

When Rustic Chic Retreat isn’t hosting baby showers, birthdays and other celebrations, Brantner said she hosts craft fairs and other family-friendly events.

“This winter and the winter before, I did a craft fair,” she said. “The first year when we did it, we arranged to have Santa come in, and I worked with our local dairy promotion board. They offered free cookies and milk for kids who came.”

Because the event venue is on a hobby farm, Brantner said many guests and clients enjoy taking pictures of the animals – especially the Highland cows.

“I’ve made it available so if people are here for a party… they can walk around the farm and take pictures,” she said. “It’s funny to see so many people who come from the city that have never seen animals.”

Red Letter Grant

In fall 2023, Rustic Chic Retreat was the recipient of the Red Letter Grant, a 501(c)3 organization that aims to support and empower female entrepreneurs.

Even being a finalist, Brantner said, left her “totally floored.”

“If I’m understanding (correctly, there were) 40-45 applicants,” she said. “When they picked (my application), I was baffled.”

The focus of Brantner’s application, she said, was not specifically for Rustic Chic Retreat.

Instead, she applied for the grant for a new endeavor she and her family are working toward – a wedding venue.

“We live on a hobby farm, it’s 10 acres,” she said. “There’s an old barn on the property, and my next dream was to renovate that into a wedding barn.”

When the Brantner family started to do the work themselves, she said there was a lot of foundation repair that needed to be done, “more than I wanted to stick into it cost-wise.”

Now, with the grant, she said they are tearing the barn down and starting a new building, which will then serve as a future wedding venue.

“My son, my husband, my brother-in-law and I are doing all the work going forward, except for plumbing and electrical,” she said. “It was $2,000 I was awarded (from the Red Letter Grant). It’s a small step to start my next plan.”

As far as Brantner is concerned, it’s her “hope and dream to do this for the rest of my life.”

“I enjoy doing those kinds of things,” she said. 

She said she hopes to have the wedding venue up and running by spring 2025.

To keep up to date on Rustic Chic Retreat’s happenings, follow its Facebook page.

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