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VOL. 37 | NO. 27 | Friday, July 05, 2013

Gallatin’s Depot Square gets another new life

By Joe Morris

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An almost 90-year old building near the square in Gallatin has undergone its share of changes over the years.

Built in 1926 as a dry goods distribution center, the structure now called Depot Square had most recently operated as a center for owner John Genung’s engineering and construction company.

“I grew up around Gallatin, and so I’d always been aware of the facility,’’ says Genung, who bought it seven years ago.

“When I saw that it was going to be torn down, and was in very bad repair, my wife, son and I decided to buy it, he explains, adding his family has long seen the site’s potential.

“We wanted a small business center in front to support our construction and engineering offices, and storage, in the back. That was fine, but we have people coming from all over the South to visit for business, and everyone who came in was just amazed at the facility, and they all wanted to know why we didn’t turn it into some kind of convention or event center. As we wound down our construction business, we took them up on that.’’

After renovations last year, Depot Square now offers 9,800 square feet of space, including what is billed as Gallatin’s largest dance floor at 1,400 square feet and has open seating for as many as 500 people. Other improvements included a revamped upstairs lounge area, new carpeting and renovated restrooms.

And along the way, the Genungs launched a partnership with Chef’s Market Café & Restaurant in Goodlettsville to operate the building.

Bo Jennings, the restaurant’s catering sales manager, has been working to put into place arrangements with table and chair rental companies, as well as wedding planners and other event vendors.

“A friend of mine was looking for a venue in Gallatin, and because it was a busy weekend everything was already taken,” Jennings says. “Someone told me to check out the depot, and so I set up a visit with the owners. I fell in love with the building the first time I walked in.

“We booked the wedding, and then we worked out a deal to be their preferred caterer, and then developed that into a relationship as their event management partner.”

Chef’s Market, which turned 16 last August, isn’t looking to expand, but having the Depot Square deal in place allows Jennings to operate a second office for catering and events for the company.

That allows him to keep his side of things going at both locations, and also be on site to promote what Depot Square has to offer.

“Sumner County has lacked a big, open blank space,” he adds. “We have many unique venues, from historic mansions to really cool rooms, but when you come in here, and see the exposed brick, the metal beams and charm in every nail and bit of mortar, you just want to spend more time in here.”

Business so far has been a steady build as word gets out about the venue’s new look and feel. Jennings also is working with Gallatin Cares local nonprofits that helps the homeless and needy, since the depot is near many of those service providers.

To that end, a “Christmas in July’’ party is being planned to both showcase the site and help the neighbors.

“There’s a need, and we want to thank these people for the services they provide,” Jennings says.

“A party will show off our event space, but we can also partner with Gallatin Cares for a coat drive. We think by doing it then, people may give up their good coats, and then go and buy a new one in the fall.”

For the owners, all the work to improve and promote Depot Square will allow more people to see the unique building, which is what they’d hoped for all along.

“Gallatin really doesn’t have anything else like it, and all kinds of people have come and held events here over the years,’’ Genung says. “We are maintaining it, and our partners are working to bring all the activities together. We hope to see more and more going on in there.

“I’m an engineer; things are very linear to me. It takes somebody with more creativity to really bring the building’s potential out. That’s what we’re working to make happen now.”