FRENCH REFINEMENT CREATES UNIQUE MEETING SPACE IN HISTORIC SETTING
By Jamie Vollmer
Foodies across St. Louis have been abuzz about a local restaurant whose amazing culinary feats are only exceeded by the spectacular skyline views offered on its rooftop deck. Fortunately for event and meeting planners, this hot spot is not only a restaurant, but also a three-story event venue ready to host your next conference, gala, wedding, cocktail reception, fashion show or private party.
Moulin Events and Meetings, along with its upstairs neighbor, the Vin de Set restaurant, is a follow-up project for Paul and Wendy Hamilton. This highly successful restaurateur couple is well known for their inaugural project, Eleven Eleven Mississippi in the Lafayette Square neighborhood. The restaurant became an instant hit, garnering attention and awards within months. In fact, it was so well received that the Hamiltons were quickly fielding hundreds of requests to host large parties and events in the space. Due to the high demand and limitations of the space, the couple decided it was time to expand their business to include a catering company and event venue.
The Search and a Vision
After more than a year searching across the St. Louis area for the perfect location, Paul and Wendy ended up back in the Lafayette neighborhood. They purchased a crumbling three-story warehouse at 2017 Chouteau Avenue. The building, built in 1876, was known as the Centennial Malt House and was originally used as a brewery mill. Its size would allow the Hamiltons to open not only an event space, but also another restaurant. However, before Moulin, French for mill, and Vin de Set, the building’s address spelled out in French, could open there was much work to be done to create Paul and Wendy’s vision.
The Hamiltons took a hands-on approach and immediately set to work on much-needed demolition. Looking past the debris and damage, the Hamiltons could easily visualize the finished product. When Jason Arnold, director of operations, first toured the building with Paul, he was impressed by the clearly defined plans shaping the construction. “There is no question that this building would not be what it is today without what they (Paul and Wendy) saw in this desolate warehouse,” he said.
Despite the crumbling walls and missing roof, Wendy and Paul’s vision for the building shined. In fact, it was so strong that Moulin was booking events even before the building was finished.
“We had two brides who booked site unseen based on blueprints they had seen with Paul and Wendy,” said Ann Jones, banquet sales manager for Moulin.
In February 2006, Paul and Wendy brought on Jason Arnold as director of operations and Jones as banquet sales manager to oversee Moulin. During the day, the pair gave hardhat tours to potential clients and focused on developing the business plan – menus, floor plans, expected capacity and room layouts.
The evenings were devoted to restoration. This was a labor of love for Paul, Wendy and their entire staff. “At night we would pick up a paint brush, and we would come over and paint. Ann painted the inside of this stairwell. I painted a good portion of the third floor deck. We built a portion of the deck. The chef, Wendy’s father, Paul, Wendy, myself, Ann, we would be out there with hammer and nails,” commented Arnold.
Moulin hosted its first event in April 2006 – a wedding reception for more than 300 guests in the Centennial Ballroom, the only room finished at that time. In the following months, other spaces were completed – offices, event rooms, retail space and the restaurant. Growth was quick. Within a month, Moulin hired a banquet chef, and by August a banquet captain had joined the team.
Four Rooms – So Many Options
Today Moulin offers four full-time event spaces – the Centennial Ballroom, Lafayette Room, Napoleon Room and Chouteau Room. Historic ambiance rules the entire building with each room offering exposed brick walls and stoic wooden support beams. The Centennial Ballroom is the largest space, accommodating up to 350 guests seated and 500 for a cocktail reception. The room features spectacular windows overlooking the downtown St. Louis skyline.
On the same floor, guests will find the Lafayette and Napoleon rooms. These rooms can be used separately, allowing for 45 to 50 guests seated and 80 to 100 cocktail style, or they can be used together to accommodate up to 120 seated and 180 for a cocktail reception. Both rooms include large ornate mirrors and the Napoleon features a lengthy, wooden bar handmade by Paul Hamilton.
On the first floor Moulin added a space to accommodate mid-size crowds – the Chouteau Room. At street level, this room has large windows providing brilliant sunlight for daytime events. In the evening, the space glows with simple twinkle lights surrounding the wooden support beams. The room offers seated space for up to 140 guests and room for 200 at a cocktail reception.
Many local companies have hosted events at Moulin including neighbors such as Ameren UE and Anheuser-Busch. The ballroom has hosted a number of unique events such as a Heineken Light launch party and a Matrix hair and color fashion show. IBM hosted the largest event to date in the ballroom, bringing in a nationally recognized comedian for a city-wide conference. The Centennial ballroom is also popular for special private occasions – weddings, anniversaries and birthday parties. The smaller rooms are regularly booked for pharmaceutical groups, business meetings, rehearsal dinners, showers and cocktail parties.
Moulin prides itself on working with clients to shape the experience they want. Instead of pushing packages, they sit down with clients and develop a personalized plan for each event. Their menu is creative and focused on quality.
“The menu sells itself. Food is important. We have a lot riding on food quality. Even if it may not be the foremost consideration when you book your event, you will remember it after the event,” said Arnold.
Moulin achieves this by taking a unique approach to plate-ups and being relentlessly creative with menus. The kitchen does a two-step plate-up to ensure that the food is warm and all garnishes and sauces are fresh when the plate is presented at the table.
Menus at Moulin are constantly moving forward based on client requests, trends in the industry and the ingenuity of the highly inventive executive chef. Recently the kitchen began offering a comfort food menu – shot glasses of tomato coolie with grilled cheese wedge, fried onion petals with green bean casserole, mini burgers with a chipotle aioli and mini meatloaf sandwiches, to name a few. The chef also works directly with clients to develop culinary delights specific to their crowds and personal tastes.
According to the banquet sales manager, one of the most exciting advantages of booking an event with Moulin is the opportunity your guests have after leaving the party. “Not only do you get a beautiful historic venue and personalized service, after your event concludes at Moulin, Vin de Set is a great spot to end your party up on the roof,” said Jones. “Even during the cold months, a lot of parties end up upstairs.”
Moulin can offer the third-floor restaurant space, including the spectacular rooftop deck, for daytime and Monday events when the restaurant is closed to the public. The space is highly sought after. It is so popular that one bride even chose to have a Monday wedding in order to have the deck. During the rest of the week, once the dinner rush has concluded, there is usually room for Moulin guests to wander up to the third floor and keep the party going.
Moulin is booking events up to a year in advance, but is happy to work with potential clients to accommodate last-minute plans. The busiest months are September, October and December. The spring season is also quite busy with weddings.
Looking to the future, Moulin hopes to open one additional space on-site and expand to include off-site catering at locations across the St. Louis area.
Regardless of its future plans, Moulin Events and Meetings is offering something today that should excite event planners and guests alike – personalized service, amazing ambiance, spectacular views, delicious cuisine and the opportunity to be part of an event at one of the most sought-after locations on the St. Louis scene.
(Jamie Vollmer is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.)
Moulin Events & Meetings
2017 Chouteau, St. Louis, MO 63103
phone (314) 241-4949
fax (314) 621-5550