What does it take to move a city forward?
It starts with a vision, and the leadership to keep the fire alive. It takes grit and determination mixed with compassion and connection. It requires thousands of helping hands, year after year. And in the case of our city, it takes the likes of a Laura Helm.
Laura fell in love with event planning as an intern for Cypress Gardens, where she witnessed both the good and the bad that comes with the industry. Running events, especially weddings, is extremely hard work.
But Laura could always feel the magic at the end of the day: two people who love each other celebrating with their nearest and dearest.
This passion for spreading joy led to the creation of Ashton Events, Lakeland’s #1 event planning & design company. Helm has found entrepreneurship to be a rollercoaster. As a leader, you are working endlessly in sickness or in health (where has she heard that before?) to make sure every event and wedding goes smoothly.
Like all business owners, Laura learned how to manage people, fight perfectionism, and say no to obligations that could hurt the company. Ashton Events is now thriving in The Collective at Mass Market, a shared office rental space on Massachusetts Avenue.
Right next door is where our story begins.
“Lakeland needs a large-scale event venue.”
A small comment from Laura to one of her good friends set in motion a project never before seen in this city. Just a few months later, Helm received a call from that very same friend, who told her there was a meeting arranged for her with The Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency.
“When is the meeting?” asked Helm.
“Um…. 9:30AM tomorrow.”
Laura walked into that meeting learning about their vision for (you guessed it) an event venue. A pitch to be involved was due in two weeks, so she worked quickly to put her vision on paper. She dreamed of a beautiful space where groups of every kind could gather and celebrate, from corporate parties to weddings and community events.
Helm wanted a place where everyone would feel right at home.
Laura’s grandfather invested in redevelopment in Indiana, and was able to take care of his family’s needs and education through a balance of vision and hard work. Determined to continue the family legacy, Helm jumped in feet first.
The project took just over a year to go from a conversation to a grand opening. In redevelopment and business expansion time, that’s incredible efficiency. On March 16th, 2017, Laura unveiled her masterpiece: Haus 820, where “Our Haus is Your Home.”
The beautiful building used to be an A&P Grocery Store back in 1924. Through the magic of redevelopment, the original building exterior stands strong while the interior is completely renovated with state-of-the-art material.
From the outside, the repainted brick walls pay tribute to days long past, and the color wall shines over the entire neighborhood. The warehouse windows bring in friendly morning light, and the courtyard is perfect for Lakeland’s next big concert.
On the inside, you’ll be greeted with a wide open space inspiring endless event possibilities. The charcoal stained and sealed floors match both professional and relaxed atmospheres. When you’re ready to loosen your tie, the 16-foot bar and finishing kitchen are waiting to serve your guests. Look towards the lobby for the finishing touch; the original electrical panels remain exposed to add to the ambiance.
There’s always something in the works at Haus 820, like HAUS MRKT, a quarterly event where local artists can showcase and sell their work! Most of these creators would go to Tampa or Orlando for exposure, but now we can keep the talent in our own city.
Haus 820 is equipped with:
- Capacity for 500 seated guests or 1,000 standing guests
- 120 chairs and 25 tables
- A finishing kitchen, complete with industrial oven, refrigerator, & double sink
- A 16-foot bar
- A 7800 square foot courtyard
- Warehouse windows
- Retractable blackout shades for multimedia events
- Two HD projectors (that can even handle live streaming!)
For both professional and personal events, reach out to Christina Johnson from the Haus 820 team: firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-940-9639. Weekend reservations go quickly, so connect with this wonderful event space soon.