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NP Event space moving full steam ahead

James Brown was called the hardest working man in show business. Aimee Jobe could be called the hardest working woman in the wedding business. Jobe runs the operations of the NP Event Space, an 8,000 square-foot event space located in the old Nor...

Aimee Jobe shows off many of the improvements she's made to the Northern Pacific Center Event Space while she's been running it. (Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey)
Aimee Jobe shows off many of the improvements she's made to the Northern Pacific Center Event Space while she's been running it. (Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey)

James Brown was called the hardest working man in show business.

Aimee Jobe could be called the hardest working woman in the wedding business.

Jobe runs the operations of the NP Event Space, an 8,000 square-foot event space located in the old Northern Pacific Center, but she wears a variety of different hats.

She's a photographer, an event planner, facility manager and caretaker for the event space. She also built the space's website and oversees many of the renovations in the massive former railroad hub. To top it all off, she and her husband Preston recently acquired a section of old Minneapolis skyway they're repurposing as a living space at their home on North Long Lake.

"I'm too passionate about too many things that it's really hard to cut back," Jobe said.

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Space history

Jobe's passion is evident when she discusses the NP Event Space, which opened in June 2014 after she convinced the Northern Pacific Center's owner Dave Hutton the idea could work.

"From the wedding photographer perspective, I was kind of tired of the same old, same old," Jobe said.

She was enthusiastic about the idea, but her lack of renovation experience showed in her initial renovation proposal, which had a budget of $10,000.

"I thought all we had to do was clean the bathrooms and add a couple emergency lights and it would be done," Jobe said. "Obviously that was not the case."

Jobe and Hutton went back and forth about the project multiple times, with Hutton canceling it a few times as the expenses kept growing. Then one day, when Jobe was working in the Twin Cities, Hutton called her and told her the project was a go.

"From the day he called me to the day we had our first wedding in here was 26 days," Jobe said.

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“If you’re working for something that you love, and toward other things, I love it. I would not trade this place for anything.” - Aimee Jobe, NP Event Space

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Needless to say, those 26 days were busy, as a new floor had to be poured, water run to the space as well as electrical work. Thankfully, the people involved were supportive and believed in the idea, Jobe said.

Hutton and Jobe have a unique relationship in that they're technically partners, Jobe said, but she still feels like she works for him. She has a voice in every decision at the space and her opinion matters.

"If you always have someone that you don't want to disappoint, besides yourself, that's a good thing," Jobe said.

In 2015, the space will bring through 15,000 people via events hosted there, Jobe said, and 85 percent of those people aren't from the area. The event space is starting to pull in brides from Minneapolis who have connections to the area because of family cabins.

"They come in and they're like, 'Where should we eat today, where should we go stay, what should we do?'" Jobe said.

The 29-year-old Jobe worked in the vending industry for 14 years for her parents' company in the Twin Cities. It gave her a good background in all the different aspects of making a business run, which has helped her manage the NP Event Space.

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"It's the same aspect of making a small business run," Jobe said.

If the NP Event Space was in the Twin Cities, it would just be one of many similar spaces, Jobe said. But being in Brainerd allows the space and the people involved to stand out.

"Up here I have the opportunity to show our character and that we can be awesome," Jobe said. Jobe hopes the renovations going on at the Northern Pacific Center might spur renovations of Brainerd's other historical buildings. She'd like to take care of those too, but has limited time and money.

"Renovate all those buildings back to their glory, it would be so beautiful," Jobe said.

But renovating an old building up to code takes a lot of money, Jobe said. And those with money don't want to spend it on renovating old buildings.

"It's a great way to lose a lot of money," Jobe said with a laugh.

Personal background

From 2004-2013, Jobe would split her time between St. Louis Park and Breezy Point. Her husband lived in the area, so she would commute on the weekends. She'd still be happy working there, but the Aitkin-raised Jobe prefers the Brainerd lakes area.

Because of her love of the vending industry, she still goes back once a week on Tuesdays to work at her parents' company.

"They're trying not to hire more people, so I'm doing a full-time person's job in a day instead of them doing it in a week," Jobe said with a laugh.

Jobe dropped out of St. Catherine University in St. Paul after a semester, but spent just enough time at the school to meet her now-husband.

Jobe may love living in Brainerd, but she still didn't see her career working in the wedding industry. Instead, she always thought she'd end up running her parents' vending company. And when she was little, she wanted to be a math teacher.

"I'm very mathematical in the way I think about everything, which everyone always thinks is really weird," Jobe said. "That I love creative things, but I think they go hand in hand."

Photography

She took photography classes in high school at St. Louis Park from 2000-2004, and maintained an interest in photography, even though she wasn't taking classes anymore. A friend asked her to shoot his wedding and it snowballed from there.

Jobe shoots about 70 percent of the weddings held at the NP Event Space and shoots a few weddings every year that aren't held in the space. Because of her tight schedule, she's "very selective" in the weddings she shoots outside of the space.

"It has to be something that's very my style," Jobe said.

She doesn't push her photography services on clients who tour the space and doesn't even bring up the fact she's a photographer. Choosing a wedding photographer is a personal decision and Jobe doesn't want to force her services on a couple.

"My photography is different than most people around here, light and airy and romantic," Jobe said. "And that's not for everyone."

Local interest

Jobe maintains a local business-first attitude when it comes to referring wedding vendors to couples who book the NP Event Space. From floral arrangements to design to catering to DJs, she refers local people she knows and works with.

"I want to keep every vendor in here possible that's local," Jobe said.

Using familiar vendors means Jobe doesn't have to keep explaining the rules and preferences for using the space; they already know because they work together so much.

"They come in here, and they know what I like and don't like," Jobe said. "So it really works well."

Despite the space's full bookings and popularity with Twin Cities couples, there's still some local backlash, Jobe said.

"I get told multiple times from people that they can't believe I think I can charge that much money for a space rental," Jobe said. "I get told that a lot."

Jobe counters those claims by pointing out it "cost a fortune" to renovate the space into what it is now.

"Dave has to get his money back," Jobe said. "Because then I can keep renovating."

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Northern Pacific Event Space

Location: Brainerd

Number of employees: 1

By the numbers:

Square footage: 8,000 square feet

Cost: $4,600 for a Saturday rental.

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Those buildings still draw plenty of curious residents who want to learn more about what's going on, Jobe said. Every morning, she said she wipes forehead marks off of the glass doors, from people peering into the space. Two-thirds of the wedding guests show up one to two hours early, just to explore the space.

"People want to come up and look in and see what it is," Jobe said. "We get random people all the time that stop in when I'm working."

Prospective clients may balk at the $4,600 rental cost for a Saturday wedding, but for weddings of more than 250 people, the per-person cost is reasonable, Jobe said. To make things work for smaller weddings, she said she helps them out where she can on costs.

"What I really try to do with the small weddings is give them certain discounts in areas like the chair rental and things like that," Jobe said. "Because I already know their per-person head price is a lot more than a bigger wedding."

It's easier to manage the space because the lack of food service and kitchen makes it easier to handle, Jobe said. There's more time around the wedding day for prep and setup.

"To be able to do a lot of things, say at other venues, when you have to come in two hours before your wedding and everything has to get decorated," Jobe said.

Jobe is upfront about rental costs and lists them on the website. All the money spent at the venue is reinvested into improving the space.

"Wedding by wedding is helping the whole site," Jobe said. "That's kind of how I look at it."

The space isn't run as a moneymaking endeavor, Jobe said. It wants to turn a profit, but the profits are in turn put back into renovations.

"It's run to keep it operating in here and alive and up for another 100 years," Jobe said. "I want these buildings to be here long after I'm dead."

Still, Jobe admits when she got married, the NP Event Space would have been outside her price range.

"I could have never afforded to get married here, as someone who lived in the lakes area and didn't have that kind of budget," Jobe said. "We're in the middle. We're not the high, but we're also not the low."

Throughout the process, Jobe said there's been a lack of public confidence an event space like the NP Event Space can work in the Brainerd lakes area. But her lack of concern about those opinions helped her get to work and not worry about what people think.

"Pretty much everyone said that will never work, it's going to fail," Jobe said. "But Dave took the risk and it's working out."

Skyway

Jobe's penchant for doing things differently led her to enter a contest to win a piece of the old Minneapolis skyway. She submitted a request for proposal for the skyway after seeing a post on Facebook and didn't think much of it.

The first quote she received to move the skyway piece was $55,000, which led her to think it probably wouldn't happen. Two weeks later she got a more realistic quote from a mover, which made her reevaluate her proposal.

"I thought, 'Holy cow, I need to put in a more serious proposal,'" Jobe said.

Her follow-up proposal focused on her family and her work with her husband and son at the event space "because it shows well." After some waiting, she got a voicemail informing her the university had a few more questions for her.

She called them back, "and they didn't even say hi, they just said 'Do you want this thing?'" Jobe said. Two architects had purchased the skyway piece from the University of Minnesota nine years ago, and since then, it had sat unused on the campus.

"Very used by college students, graffiti and broken windows and beer bottles everywhere," Jobe said. It was "broken and ruined," but it looked a lot like the buildings at the Northern Pacific Center did before renovations began.

The skyway piece will be attached to Jobe's home on North Long Lake and will be completed in November. When it's finished, it will have a rooftop deck overlooking the lake.

"It's so wonderful, I don't think I could ask for anything more," Jobe said.

Her home sits on 16 acres of wetland on the lake, which complicates things when it comes to building, but also provides a scenic backdrop for photography, Jobe said. She hopes to take more clients among the boardwalks, forests and beach for a variety of shots.

Hard work, long hours

The long hours and and hard work involved in running the space can create stress, Jobe said. But that stress is easily relieved by the scenic Brainerd lakes area.

"How incredibly fortunate we are to be able to work and live here," Jobe said. "To be able to make a living and support our family and live in such a beautiful place."

Still, it's a daily struggle to stay on top of things and keep from being overwhelmed, Jobe said. Things go well during the day, but at night she finds herself thinking of the things she didn't accomplish during the day that still need to get done. In the wedding industry, immediate responses to emails and calls are expected, so if an email gets to the bottom of an inbox, it can be forgotten.

"I know eventually I have to hire someone to do emails and phone calls and that kind of stuff," Jobe said.

Jobe loves the NP Event Space, so she likes to "overdeliver in here, so sometimes I take on too many things, too, but it always ends well."

Juggling a lot of responsibilities means learning how to say no, which can be difficult, Jobe said.

"If you can do it, why should you say no?" Jobe said. "That's my struggle right now."

Jobe's passion for what she does is evident, but it's often the same passion that creates anxiety and stress.

"I think the problem is I'm too passionate about too many things," Jobe said. "It's really hard to cut back."

It's hard work and long hours, but it doesn't feel like work, Jobe said, because she loves to do it.

"If you're working for something that you love, and toward other things, I love it," Jobe said. "I would not trade this place for anything."

She adapts by having her husband and son around when she's setting up, so it feels like family time and less like work time.

"It's weird, but I always say the site has a soul," Jobe said. "Because no matter what kind of mood I'm in, I'm always happy when I'm out here."

It hasn't been all roses, though, Jobe said. There have been tough times when she's felt exhausted or burned out. But she loves where she works and that critical fact relieves a lot of the stress.

"Every morning I get to wake up and know I get to come here, which is pretty awesome," Jobe said.

 

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

Related Topics: WEDDINGS
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