Kathy and Keith Meyer, along with their daughter and son-in-law Hanni and Aaron Gould, incorporated the original organ pipes from the former sanctuary into the bar design in the banquet hall at The Covenant at Murray Mansion.
The Murray Mansion, built in 1874 for Scottish immigrant George Murray, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
BY KATIE MATTESON
If you decided to start an event management company, you’d want a few critical components. You’d want someone who knew a lot about event planning and you’d want someone who knew a lot about food. And ideally, you’d want the ability to host guests at your own facility as well as off-site locations.
Kathy and Keith Meyer of Kenosha created just such a company when they launched Culinary Infusion in 2013. And they didn’t have to look far to build their dream team.
Kathy already had extensive experience in formal catering in Milwaukee and Chicago and Keith had honed his skills in casual catering as a part of a family meat and catering business in Kenosha. And when the couple found an event space in Downtown Kenosha, their table was set.
And it got better when their daughter Hanni Gould returned home in July 2012 to help facilitate opening the venue, Circa on Seventh. She and her husband had lived in Washington and Florida during the four years Aaron served in the U.S. Navy.
Hanni had worked with her mother on catering events during summers and on breaks while she was in college. After graduation she worked in human resources and recruiting.
During his time serving in the military, Aaron realized his passion for culinary arts and decided to also join the family business and pursue a Culinary Arts Management degree.
The business took off quickly and while they could accommodate the off-site catering bookings, they found themselves running out of available dates at Circa on Seventh. They started looking for a second venue.
After continually monitoring the real estate listings in Kenosha for nearly two years and coming up dry, a search for churches for sale on Craig’s List brought the family to the former Our Savior Lutheran Church property at 2219 Washington Ave. in Racine. As a bonus, the church came with an attached Italianate mansion, built in 1874 for Scottish immigrant George Murray which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We instantly fell in love with the unique space and could see the possibilities,” Kathy said.
They visioned a multi-use space where couples could use the former sanctuary for both wedding ceremonies and receptions, utilize the mansion’s elegant spaces to get ready and the former servants’ quarters for guest accomodations.
The company bought the property in December 2015 and after extensive renovations, hosted their first wedding at the new venue on May 6, 2017.
Right from the start, the family felt warmly received by the Racine community. They recalled at the first meeting of the zoning committee former Mayor John Dickert said, “Welcome, we’re excited to have you in Racine.”
During the 18-month renovation, the family held daily meetings over lunch with general contractor John Beggi, his crew and subcontractors.
“The lunches kept us all on track and we built lasting friendships during the process,” Hanni said. “It was actually kind of sad when it ended.”
Hanni and her mother directed all the aspects of the interior design to achieve their vision in each area of the 14,000 square foot facility.
Since opening the second venue, Hanni has assumed the role of venue director at the Covenant at Murray Mansion and longtime employee Kelsey Brunner replaced Hanni as event director at Circa on Seventh.
Keith and Aaron, both serve as executive chefs – Keith in Racine and Aaron in Kenosha.
Kathy is president of the company and manages all the off-site catering events.
“We’ve set a limit of three events per day so that we can personally care for each event,” Kathy said. “Our motto is: someone’s getting married today – every event is important.”
Those looking for a unique venue will find The Covenant at Murray Mansion the perfect spot for weddings with up to 250 guests, corporate events requiring both large and small meeting spaces, as well as bridal and baby showers. The Parish House (the former servants and later pastor’s quarters) has also become a popular AirBnB rental.
The Meyers have skillfully brought the mansion back to its original splendor by showcasing its amazing historical assets, while discreetly outfitting it with modern updates like a new full kitchen in the basement.
“And it’s the food that sets us apart,” Keith said. “Just about every week someone tells us, ‘this is the best wedding food we’ve ever had.’”
Keith attributes their success to “putting the food first.” He said they use only high quality meat and fresh ingredients and work with their guests to accommodate special menu requests – whether it’s a particular ethnic food or a favorite family recipe.
In addition to the four family members, Culinary Infusion employs four other full-time and 30 part-time employees to cover both venues and off-site events.
For more information or to set up a tour, contact Hanni Gould at (262) 583-2241 or Hanni.Gould@culinary-infusion.com.