McCOOL JUNCTION – It’s been 17 years since the first dirt was moved and the first wall was erected for what has become the popular events center and wedding destination known as Stone Creek.
Allen and Shelly Clark created, owned and operated Stone Creek for over a decade and a half. In August 2020, Jerry and Melanie Wilkinson, owners of JW’s Catering in York, began renting the property to use as an events center. In December 2021, the Wilkinsons purchased the business from the Clarks, marking a smooth transition to the future.
“It was 2005 and we had a collection of cars that we wanted to move off the farm,” Shelly Clark said of starting the long-running business. “We wanted to build a building in town to house the collection. When we started the process, we quickly saw that there was a huge need for a place to host functions and gatherings. So we started talking about expanding the facility from what we had originally planned.
“At first we thought we would just house the cars there and then remove the cars when we had a function,” Clark said with a laugh, as that would soon no longer be the case as the functions took over. rather than cars.
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The land where Stone Creek sits was once a farm owned by Clark’s great-aunt and uncle. “I remember I used to go there when I was a kid and there was an old cherry tree where the pond is now, and my aunt would ask us to go outside and pick the cherries” with the promise that she would make a pie out of it.
After their death, the farm was demolished and the land belonged to a local farmer. Clark said it took some convincing to buy the land, as it was cultivated, but eventually everything became official.
Where does the name Stone Creek come from?
Clark explained that his step-aunt, Carol Smith, was “the town historian, and she told me the story. Just across the street (from present-day Stone Creek) there was once the Stone Mill “People brought in wheat and things and they made flour there. The owners’ last name was Stone – they were Carol’s grandparents. There’s the creek just to the south that was called Stone Creek.
She said very old maps confirmed that this area was also called Stone Creek.
“We started in March of that year,” she recalls. Allen did all the ground work. Neville Construction was the main contractor. Then Jensen Lumber got involved on the inside. We called on all local contractors. And we also had a lot of local help, through friends and family. We realized that if we were going to use the building for events, we would need tables and chairs. . . and as the project progressed, the fire marshal was involved. It all snowballed – and after investing so much money, we realized we had to make a business out of it. It wasn’t our intention at first, but that’s how it quickly evolved.
The very first event took place in October 2005 – but since the Fire Marshal had not yet given final approval, they held the event in a large tent in the parking lot. The next event, Clark said, was a few weeks later — indoors — for Ducks Unlimited.
“The first wedding was in November,” Clark recalled. “The wedding was for a friend of a family member and they helped us paint the bathrooms to get ready. It was our very first.”
Stone Creek’s popularity quickly became evident and cars found another home.
Clark also found a new job.
“I never expected it to become a full-time job and I had already just taken on a full-time job, doing books for our feedlot and farm operation,” Clark said. “Allen said, ‘Oh, we’re just going to do this on the weekend.’ Oh, it became much more than that.
The Clarks remained very busy with the venue for many years.
Tyler and Kayliana Cox started helping Clark with booking, cleaning, bartending, working with customers, and more.
“Then about two years ago they were going to move on and it was time to see what we were going to do,” Clark said, as she wanted to step back from duties and commitment, spend more time with his family and grandchildren.
The facility was quietly for sale and there were two buyers at one point.
“But neither worked and today I can say that fortunately because if either had, Stone Creek wouldn’t be what it is today. today – it would be something completely different, like a warehouse,” Clark said.
The pandemic started in March 2020 and large events were not allowed. Stone Creek, like all places, was quiet and unused. And the Clarks grew more uncertain about Stone Creek’s future.
Meanwhile, hopeful brides still looking forward to their future nuptials at the end of 2020 began calling their caterer, Jerry Wilkinson, concerned about some rumblings they’d heard about Stone Creek closing permanently.
Wilkinson, who had a great, long-standing working relationship with the Clarks, having done extensive restoration work at the facility, quickly called Shelly and inquired about the situation.
“What must happen to keep Stone Creek open, as it is?” Wilkinson asked Clark.
“Come down and we’ll talk,” was Clark’s response.
It was the morning of July 3 when the Wilkinsons met Clark, seated at a table in dark Stone Creek, talking about the future of the venue and the need to keep it open because of what it means to the community. , because of its beauty and nuances and because of its continued potential.
“It was a daunting idea to take on this, as we were already incredibly busy with the catering business,” Wilkinson said. “Then we started looking at our existing staff, a group of people who are so talented in different ways. And we had been so concerned during those early months of the pandemic about whether we could continue to give them jobs if the When we started talking about Stone Creek, we realized that we already had the people in place to fill these different roles, while still being able to keep their jobs with us. so many skills and experience in running Stone Creek and there is Eilene Fox, our main employee, who makes amazing pastries and wedding cakes, and has so many other experiences in decorating, events , etc
Without naming them all, he recognized multi-faceted members of the JW team who wanted to do housework, ground work on a weekly basis, help with outdoor and ground work, do tech work, help with changes, etc. . He also noted all the work that Conner Mogul (also known as in-house DJ, The Music Mogul) was able and willing to do, in terms of sound and technology improvements.
“We were honored to be the ones they (the Clarks) trusted and we had the various talents on board to create additional services and become a turnkey operation,” Wilkinson said. “We were able to create a wedding destination where couples can do everything under one roof and we can provide all the services they need.”
On August 1, a lease was signed with the JW’s Catering team taking over operations and Naber became the facilities manager.
Larger events have finally been re-authorized and event marketing/reservation/planning is in full swing. Public and private events took place there and bookings began to pour in. At the end of 2021 there was a full work book for 2022 – and the Wilkinsons bought the property from Clarks in December.
The JW crew made changes along the way, adding a bridal suite to the second floor loft. There, the brides and their nuptials can get ready, have their hair done, get ready before going down for the ceremony in the courtyard.
The courtyard has become increasingly popular for outdoor weddings, with the addition of lighting, more flowers and plantings, white ceremonial chairs for guests and more. And of course, there’s still the beautiful old windmill, the pergola on the south side, and the ability to open up the entire south side of the building for brides to make grand entrances.
Over the past year, vintage pewter has been added for a historic touch in certain areas, such as in the entryway and along the exterior of the second floor loft (with custom barn doors).
Technology features and custom lighting have been added to highlight the building’s offerings and nuances.
The Wilkinsons say they were drawn to Stone Creek from the start, being there so often for supplies.
“We just couldn’t let him not be there for the public anymore,” said Jerry Wilkinson. “It would have been such a shame. I love the character of this place and the way people enjoy being here. It’s such a beautiful building and there are so many beautiful things we can do here.
With a full record of weddings for this year and bookings through 2023, the JW team is excited to continue building Stone Creek’s future.
“Throughout this time, Allen and Shelly have been great mentors to get us started,” Wilkinson said. “They helped familiarize us with the building and process of running a business like this.”
“I’m so excited for them to continue and build on Stone Creek,” Clark said. “I’m delighted to see that they have the same enthusiasm we had when we started and I have to say I’m also relieved. I like to go over there to Stone Creek now for a band or an event and I can relax and then I can go home. It feels good – to be able to be there, in a place that we love so much and I don’t have to take on this responsibility anymore. And what they’re doing now is way more than me, with food and stuff. We are both very happy that the Wilkinsons are the ones who have it now. It was truly a god thing. Before they arrived it was for sale and we had two other buyers who didn’t work – and if they had, Stone Creek would be a whole different thing than it is today’ today. The Wilkinsons and the JW team were the best people we could have asked for to pursue our dream.