After a stint in the Air Force, raising three kids and running a successful painting business for the past 12 years, Sylvia DeWall was ready for a change.
But she never expected her desire to move in a new direction would lead her to a place she had been before — 22 N. Fort Harrison Ave. in Clearwater, a building she had painted during one of its numerous nightclub iterations over the past few years.
Yet here she is, just five weeks removed from signing a lease on the property, trying to revitalize the Cleveland Street District as the operator of The Sage events venue, a 4,800-square-foot party palace right in the heart of downtown.
“I had been thinking about opening a bakery down here, but my landlord talked me out of it,” she said. “It’s funny because I actually painted this place a few years ago when it was a nightclub, and now I’m running my own business here.”
DeWall still has her painting company, which is currently being run by her husband, Tim, but she was eager to devote more time to a career that she has dabbled in since her Air Force days in the early '80s.
“I had experience organizing big parties on the base while I was in the Air Force, and then later I did the same thing for a YMCA camp in San Francisco,” she said.
“But this is a little new to me,” she added. “It’s a big fancy venue, not a converted saw mill or an outdoor park. But it's not rocket science, so I'm sure I can handle it.”
'I Felt There Was a Need'
The Clearwater resident believes she will succeed at her newest venture because she feels her business fills a need in the burgeoning downtown district.
“I felt there was a need for an upscale venue here, somewhere where you can have a wedding reception or a work party and not have to worry about the quality of the facility or the logistics of planning the event,” she said.
For convenience, The Sage allows clients to bring in their own caterer, bartender or DJ, or DeWall can provide those services.
The cost to rent the facility, which features a high-ceilinged central atrium encircled by an upper level balcony, varies depending on hours, the size of the party and the day of the week, but DeWall says she is being flexible right now in order to get her business off the ground.
“We’re very affordable. I’m the new kid on the block, so I want to get known,” she explained.
Public Suggestions Are Welcome
To that end, she is taking suggestions for party ideas from visitors to her weekly open houses on a whiteboard set up inside, an idea her husband came up with.
“We’ve gotten some great suggestions, from a sports night to a comedy show to movies. I didn’t want to shoot any of them down because I knew some of them were very good,” she said.
But no matter what kind of event The Sage is used for or where she gets her ideas, DeWall is certain that her latest business will be successful.
“I’m a firm believer that if you start out to do something and it fails, you fail," she said. "And I have no intention of failing at this.”
Address: 22 N. Fort Harrison Ave.
Open house hours: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, 6-8 p.m. Tuesday