By Sue Moore
The old Chevy garage and dealership, abandoned and decaying near downtown Vicksburg for the last five years, will soon be jumping with the sound of wedding bells and music, with a few loud train whistles mixed in for good measure.
It will fulfill a dream of two young women who have been best friends since grade school. Megan Oswalt and Kylie Rowe are the founders of the Rim and Rail, the new event center at 343 W. Prairie Street.
They share a vision of converting the car repair portion of the building into a beautiful hall for wedding receptions. Not a lot of people could see their vision, but with parental support they have plunged ahead. They expect to open for their first event on Saturday, September 8.
Fittingly, the bride and groom renting the space on that date plan to enter the hall through the front overhead door in an antique vehicle to announce their arrival. It is the doorway that all makes and models of General Motors vehicles entered to get repairs done since the early 1960s. Thus, the new business name, Rim and Rail.
The two ladies have an appreciation for the history of the building which housed the Krum-Hallam Chevrolet dealership for 50 years before it was purchased by Cole Automotive. Cole moved the business to a new location on US 131 outside of Schoolcraft.
Oswalt and Rowe come from farm families and have kept the uniqueness of their heritage as part of the décor of the expansive building. In keeping with the history of the building, they have left the big beams supporting the 15-foot ceiling in place. Lots of insulation has been poured into the walls and rafters of the 10,000-square-foot wide open room. The walls have then been covered with salvaged siding from an Amish barn to give the interior a rustic look. They call it “industrial meets chic.” They will furnish it with 10 eight-foot wooden farmhouse tables, cocktail tables, serving tables, 28 60-inch plastic rounds, and 300 metal bistro chairs. Rowe said, “It’s all about creating a space with small town charm, where memories can be made.”
For wedding ceremonies, there is a large bride’s room and a slightly smaller space for the groom and his attendants. They are booking for weddings, corporate events, baby showers, anniversary celebrations, proms and graduation parties into 2020.
There is a pergola constructed on the west side for an outside area in good weather. Inside there is a fireplace at one end, a catering kitchen to serve meals for events, lots of storage in a pole barn in back of the facility and parking for 150 cars to the east.
The pricing is about average for the area, Oswalt said as she explained the market research that was done in the beginning. They had help from Southwest Michigan Small Business Development Center at Western Michigan University. “We wanted to make it easy as possible for potential customers to understand so we have included all the amenities in our basic price points,” she indicated.
Food service will be from area catering entities and alcohol can be served by a licensed bartender with insurance. They will work with area photographers, flower designers, live bands or DJs.
The two girls grew up together because their mothers were close friends. They would ride their bikes to each other’s homes during the summers and stayed close even though they went to separate schools.
Oswalt grew up on the family farm in Brady Township, attended Vicksburg schools and graduated from Grand Valley State University. She taught art in the Grand Rapids area as well as Midland for five years but wanted a change. She came back to Vicksburg to work for the electrical business of her parents, Dan and Kelly Oswalt.
Rowe’s mother is Shellie (Kannegieter) Snyder, a VHS graduate in 1983 who married into a Mendon farm family. They lived near the Oswalt family’s farm. She graduated from Mendon High School in 2006 and attended Kellogg Community College. She married a Mendon fellow and moved to Vicksburg where they started their family.
“We are so thankful for the village’s support throughout the development of this project. This is a dream come true for us. We couldn’t do this without the great support of our family and friends,” said Oswalt. “We are an adaptable venue that can host everything from large weddings to small parties and accommodate your unique taste in decor and style with ease.”