When Matt and Ashley Marquez got married 10 years ago, they went to a familiar caterer.
Ashley had worked at Moveable Feast, 321 Franklin St., Geneva, in high school and college, so the popular business was a natural choice.
About six years later, when she and Matt heard the company was for sale, it was another natural choice to consider buying it themselves.
“The opportunity presented itself shortly after and we jumped on it,” Matt Marquez said. “However, when we took ownership, we knew we had a bigger vision for the cafe and catering company that Geneva had grown to love.”
They renamed the business Moveable Feast & Co. to reflect the growing catering side of the business, and to expand that part of the operation even further.
“Having catered hundreds of events and weddings throughout the years, we knew expanding into the wedding industry was our best next step,” Marquez said.
That next step brought the company to Aurora, where Moveable Feast & Co. has opened Company 251 in the more than 100-year-old former International Harvester Building at 251 S. River St.
The building is in the four-block Belle-Gale Historic District in a somewhat neglected part of the city’s downtown. But, similar to what the recent opening of the Bureau Gravity Building could do for the East Side of downtown on historic LaSalle Street, Company 251 could be the anchor for more owner-occupied businesses rekindling that part of Aurora’s downtown footprint.
“It is clear that the city is on the rise and the opportunity to be a part of this renaissance, to create a space that allows for greater opportunity in the historic downtown area, was one we couldn’t pass by,” Marquez said. “The historic spaces around and including Company 251 were begging to be renovated and we felt it was an immense blessing that the River Street location was open for us.”
Because the building is in an historic district, it was eligible for federal historic area tax credits. It was also eligible for state tax credits because it is in the city’s River Edge Redevelopment Zone.
Aurora economic development officials have been touting the possibility of the tax credits in pursuing developers throughout downtown for such properties as the Terminal Building at Broadway and Galena Boulevard, and the Crosby Building at Galena and River Street.
Because the historic building had been unused for a while, Marquez said it was “a fairly blank canvas” and was “a good excuse to add some pretty unique elements to the space.”
The venue includes the first and second floors, each having 10,000 square feet. There are two grand marble bars, a patio space that can be entered through a glass garage door, a bridal suite which contains a three-chair vanity originally from Italy, a groom’s suite with a whiskey bar, a lounge area with velvet furnishings and marble tables, and custom lighting fixtures throughout the space, just to name some of the amenities.
With in-house catering made on the site in a full-service kitchen, “we’ve really tried to make Company 251 an all inclusive experience, providing all a client would need upfront,” Marquez said.
He said they tried to keep original features in the building. While they put in a new, modern glass garage door entrance, they kept the original tractor loading zone. The flooring on the second floor is the original hardwood, with paint lines, scratches, and character all still visible.
Marquez said keeping the original elevator was not possible, but the new custom elevator has a glass backing, allowing people to see large, ghost numbers that mimic the lettering on the building exterior.
“Of course, all of the brick and wood in and around the building are original to the space as well,” Marquez said.
Most of Company 251’s business is in the wedding industry.
But Marquez said they “are hoping to also build strong relationships with corporations, providing a space for annual events and celebrations.”
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