Couple turns an East End church into something wholly different

The former Forestpark Community Church, on Blankenbaker Road in Jeffersontown, is being converted into a new event rental space.

The building is in the midst of a more than $250,000 overhaul, which includes new flooring, walls and lighting. When it's finished, it will be called The Blankenbaker and will have six meeting rooms on two floors.

These rooms will be large enough to accommodate as many as 200 people or small enough for groups of eight to 10. Owner Rob Bailey sees the space being used for weddings, corporate meetings and networking events. It already has a few events booked, as construction is expected to wrap up in the next month.

Bailey is the former owner of Bailey Tools & Supply Inc., on Shelby Street. He also owned Rob-a-Que, a barbecue restaurant and catering business that was on Bishop Lane until it closed in May 2015.

Bailey showed me around the space on Friday, explaining that the business is finally being launched after a long search for the right site.

Long time coming

The idea for The Blankenbaker spun out of an other business plan Bailey had to offer barbecue cooking classes. Finding affordable space to lease for that was difficult, so he began searching for real estate he could buy himself.

Bailey's wife, Alonna Bailey, also was interested in finding a new home for her business — Branding Impact, which sells promotional products and marketing materials.

Finding a space that could generate revenue as an event venue and be home to a cooking business and a marketing business proved difficult too. In fact, the Baileys had all but given up on the idea when their real estate agent, Paul Grisanti of Louisville-based Grisanti Group Commercial Real Estate, offered to show them this former church.

"[Grisanti] convinced me to come look at it," Rob Bailey said. When he got in and walked around the old church, he said, "I could just see the layout even though it was in pretty bad shape."

He also believed it would be a sound investment, considering its location on Blankenbaker Road, not far from busy Blankenbaker Parkway.

He bought the property from previous owner Matthew Miller for $320,000 in March. And the construction project started in April. Bailey is doing a lot of the work himself, with help from friends and family.

Filling a niche in the market

The six rooms at the property vary in size and have their own theme. One will be decorated with a bourbon theme, for instance, while others are to be decorated with a Kentucky Derby or Hollywood theme.

Bailey believes the venue will fill a niche in the market. He sees it as being a bit more upscale than a community hall rental but not quite as expensive as a hotel ballroom.

That makes it a nice fit for smaller weddings, he said. It also will have an open catering policy, which he said can provide a small group with more flexibility. The cost for renting a large space there for a Saturday wedding will be about $2,500, including tables and chairs.

The structure was built in 1971 and housed Forestpark Community Church for a period. That church since has moved elsewhere and later leased the space to Victory Baptist Church. Victory Baptist moved out shortly after Bailey bought the property.

Bailey is holding off on the barbecue cooking instruction business for now. That'll probably launch next year after the venue business is up and running.

"I feel like I've found a good use for the property," he said.

David A. Mann covers these beats: Restaurants, beverage industry, manufacturing, distribution/logistics, unions.

Louisville Business First


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