The Loft is open for business!
It has been over a year of planning and downtown Stillwater’s rustic yet stylish event venue is a reality! Since opening October 4, 2013, over 35 events have already been booked at the Loft at Studio J.
Located above Studio J & Judd Sather Photography at 214 Main Street South, The Loft at Studio J is a private and flexible event center boasting rustic textures mixed with unique lighting fixtures that create a “wow” effect. The Loft is a completely accessible building equipped with a wheelchair lift and has approximately 3,500 sq/ft of usable space that can accommodate up to 250 guests depending on table and seating arrangements.
There is a small prep kitchen on site so clients can use any caterer they would like, and we have a BYOB option for liquor (Public Consume and Display license). Many clients choose to have liquor stores deliver beverage directly to the Loft and hire bartending services that cover liquor liability insurance. The versatility of The Loft is one of very attractive to clients who want be creative and flexible while planning their memorable occasion!
Owner Judd Sather has been a photographer in Stillwater since 2001 and moved his company (Studio J, Inc.) from a home-based business to 317 Main Street South (across from The Daily Grind) in 2007 to 214 Main Street South in 2009. “Judd Sather Photography” is the signature brand of Studio J, Inc. used for weddings only when Judd is shooting. With over 7000 sq ft of photography space to shoot within, clients started asking the studio staff if they could rent out the studio for parties and thus began the vision of the event center – the market research was already there.
Major renovations needed to happen to bring the 1895 building up to current public safety codes including new structurally sound floor joists, 70’ weight bearing wall, bathrooms, wheelchair lift (limited access elevator), grand staircase, and fireproof exit stairwell.
Architecture drawings were begun in September of 2012 exploring the feasibility of using the space as an event center. There were many variables that came along with the decision-making process including. After much deliberation, permits were received from the City of Stillwater on July 5, 2013 and finishing touches are still being applied to the Loft in late November, 2013 including a curved grand staircase featuring a newel post from a home built in 1875 on the south hill owned by Trevor and Julie Cronk. The event center had an aggressive 3-month timeline from the first walls being demolished to opening event on October 4, 2013.
Studio J photographers still operated during the renovation shooting families, high school seniors, and weddings amongst all the dust and debris that came with a complete gutting of both the upstairs and downstairs of the studio. The dedicated staff operated out of a 500sq foot room on the second floor at times running 5 computers on a generator with only one small light and no air conditioning for three weeks! There were many late late late nights and early mornings throughout the summer. Special thanks to all of our downtown neighbors who put up with all the construction noise! Especially Fun Sisters, Our Shop, and The Mad Capper.
Carpenter Mark Morsching took great pains to reclaim and repurpose about 75% of the subfloor, flooring, and joists. The best thing about repurposing is that it is priceless yet free and the material stays in the building!
Here is a list of turning old into new:
Old flooring = stair treads, high top tables around the columns, base trim in stairwells, and door trim, base and trim for the epoxy bar
Old Studs = door and decorative trim, shooting backgrounds
Old subfloor = white washed shooting background in grand stairwell, mixed wood paneling around elevator shaft, stair risers, coat hooks, bar trim
Joists = wall rails, top trim around elevator shaft, shooting backgrounds, bar trim
Broken beam = corner of the bar – the whole renovation needed to happen due to a snapped support beam near the large front windows. Only one fragile joist hanger and an old water pipe held up the cracked beam.
Ceiling Tin = bar lights, bar panels and shooting backgrounds
Pull chain toilet seat and tank = decorations near the bathrooms
The centerpiece of the bar is a lather’s axe with the initials “J.P.” that was dropped behind a partially completed wall by the craftsman during the building process in 1895. Interestingly enough, shortly after we took the axe out of the wall during demolition to add to the bar one of our contractors lost a sawzall tool in the floor while it was being insulated. It seemed the building wanted a modern tool in return for the tool taken! It makes you wonder what the carpenters of 2113 will think when they see an ancient sawzall tool in the floor!
The “see-through” bar required twenty-seven gallons of epoxy to cover over 100 objects found during demolition including old screwdrivers, square headed nails, and the joist hanger that was the only hardware holding up the front of the building. Artist and Collaborations shop owner, Angela Hudson, spearheaded the application of the epoxy. Mixed in with the old items is some of Judd Sather’s black and white photography of Stillwater and also some old newspaper articles with headlines like “We Don’t Hire People with Halitosis”. The bar is equipped with a keg cooler, ice well, wine fridge, and two sinks for client use.
Josh Koosmann (Photographer and Studio Manager), Jen McCormick (Loft Manager), Taylor Curley (Event Hostess), Mark and Katie Morsching (Demo, Finish carpentry and re-purposing), Jeremiah Sullivan (Demo and Finish carpentry), HAF Architects (Rough carpentry and construction management), Tillgis Electric, and countless others that offered help, support and encouragement during the process including Lee, Kyle T, Sara, Kyle M, Eric, Lisa, Natalie, Taylor, Tom, Logan, Dan and Anne, Tracy, Anthony, Carl, Dayna, Jaimie, Allison, Martha, Bjorn, Kai, and Gunnar.
Many thanks to everyone!!!! -Judd Sather (Owner and Lead Photographer)