With a lot of hard work and a little help from a historic structures tax credit, husband-and-wife duo rehabilitate historic Zachary home as a wedding and event venue.
Thanks to husband-and-wife duo Danny and Skye Willis, a circa-1898 historic home located in the heart of Zachary begins a new life as Magnolia Fields, a fully restored wedding and event venue.
When the Zachary town council launched a revitalization campaign to encourage investment in the town’s National Register Historic District in early 2019, the neighborhood’s combination of handsome Victorian architecture and attractive tax benefits attracted the attention of St. Francisville entrepreneurs Danny and Skye Willis. With Danny’s corporate background and Skye’s creative expertise as a restaurateur, event coordinator, and interior designer, collaborating to rehabilitate a historic home to serve as an atmospheric event space—something Zachary lacked at the time—presented a perfect combination of opportunities for these parents of six.
With help from a Louisiana Rehabilitation of Historic Structures tax credit, Danny and Skye drew on their extensive experience with home restoration to transform the Queen Anne Victorian home on Virginia Street into a contemporary, adaptable event venue, while preserving the historic character and charm of the National Historic Register building’s original architecture. Today, Magnolia Fields delivers an intimate, elegant atmosphere that lends itself to a wide variety of events, from weddings and showers, to corporate parties and private dinners. All of the venue’s dazzling decor was sourced from small businesses in Zachary. “It's important to us that we do business locally, so we worked hard to support Zachary businesses when we did the venture,” said Skye.
The Willises worked with Bank of St. Francisville to secure the business financing for Magnolia Fields, a decision the couple described as a “no-brainer.” Their relationship with BSF goes back generations; Skye’s family are the owners of the Magnolia Café, the beloved St. Francisville institution better known simply as “the Mag.” Growing up, Skye hopped off the school bus every day at the café, right across the street from BSF.
The Willis family’s partnership with BSF became particularly important when their planned opening of Magnolia Fields coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The challenges presented by being unable to host events amid shifting quarantine and social distancing restrictions made the bank’s flexible loan terms and close working relationships more relevant and vital than ever.
“Being with a community bank, everybody was so understanding throughout such a difficult time,” Skye said. “That's something to be said for local banks—the personal relationships really helped our business model. When everything was shutting down and events were canceling left and right—it sounds like a lot to handle. But it wasn’t, because of the support from having those close relationships where they’re like family.”
While Magnolia Fields is far from the couple’s first business venture, it is their first as operators of an event venue. So, with a brand new business and a pandemic to navigate simultaneously, they found the value of a close banking relationship more valuable than ever. “[The bank] reached out to ask us if we needed help during that time, since we couldn't get help from the government in the beginning,” Danny said. “That really made a difference for us. In fact, it was a lifesaver.”
Could your business qualify for a Louisiana Rehabilitation of Historic Structures tax credit? Click here to learn more.
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