Event company Michaelis Events is managing a renovated church in Shelby Park. | Courtesy of Michaelis Events
Louisville company Michaelis Events is managing a renovated church in Shelby Park. | Courtesy of Michaelis Events

When Head First Media co-owners Jeff Epperson and Jeffrey Hutchins bought a former Episcopal Church at the corner of East St. Catherine and South Shelby streets, they didn’t plan for it to become an event space.

The pair simply needed a new place to run their audio visual company and set up two recording studios after real estate development and management company Underhill Associates bought the antique mall where Head First Media operated for about 16 years, Hutchins told Insider Louisville. The antique mall is now Germantown Mill Lofts.

Head First Media bought the 140-year-old church for $34,000 in 2013 and moved in the following year.

“We’d been in the Germantown neighborhood since about ’97, and we wanted to stay close,” Hutchins said. “When we first saw (the church), the inside was really not that desirable, but it had even more space than we needed.”

With room to spare and people inquiring, the pair decided to renovate the space it wasn’t using and signed a contract with Louisville-based event planning company Michaelis Events to manage renting it after meeting at a networking event. Michaelis Events also offers event catering, design and decor, and desserts.

“We already run a business. We are pretty busy doing that,” Hutchins said. “We just don’t have the time. We don’t have the expertise.”

Formerly named St. Stephens, the space is now called St. Catherine. Hutchins said he and Epperson invested around $200,000 to renovate the church, including putting up all-new drywall, restoring the wood floors and replacing the ceilings.

“It needed a lot of work,” he said.

One unique feature about St. Catherine that remains is the hand-painted stained glass windows. The space also has brown brick walls, a log-burning fireplace, bright overheard lighting and ornate wallpaper, according to a news release about the new space.

The 2,500-square-foot sanctuary space at St. Catherine can seat up to 125 people, with additional seating in the former church gym for 180. However, Lauren Brown, sales and events manager for Michaelis Events, said gym space also can be used for a buffet and bar area.

“It is really well suited for small events,” Brown said, such as corporate dinners, small weddings and fund-raisers.

People can rent the space for eight hours for $1,200 on Saturdays and $1,000 on Fridays and Sundays. Weekday rentals vary based on time of day and length of the rental.

The venue is listed at 729 E. Saint Catherine St., but it also uses the address, 1046 S. Shelby St. (The latter is more accurate for GPS purposes.) St. Catherine has two parking lots as well as on-street parking for guests.

Denise Jerome, owner of Michaelis Events, told IL that the co-owners of Head First Media have done a great job renovating the space to the company’s needs.

“It’s exciting, and it’s just starting to take off,” Jerome said. The space will host its first wedding on April 2.

This is not the first renovated church that Michaelis Events manages. Last summer, the company started leasing The Lancaster at St. Clair, a 166-year-old former church in Frankfort, Ky.

Other event partnerships are 314 Exchange in PeeWee Valley, The Golf House of Kentucky at Persimmon Ridge Golf Club, The Pointe in Butchertown, and the University of Louisville’s event conference center

“We are trying to strategically put us in different sides of town with different size venues,” Jerome said. “(St. Catherine’s) is in a part of Louisville that I think is a good area with all the renovations going on.”

Shelby Park and Germantown are seeing lots of development activity, including the opening of a bakery, a catering company and a distillery. A few housing developments are also at various stages of progress.

Just recently, nonprofit Access Ventures and Germantown Mill Lofts were awarded loans from the city for two separate ventures in those neighborhoods.

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]