Established event and entertainment venues in the city are facing competition in East Winston.
The Enterprise Conference & Banquet Center on South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is quickly becoming a preferred venue for churches, organizations and conferences. National Black Theatre Festival Executive Producer Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin has already hosted two events at the newly renovated facility – an appreciation breakfast for NBTF volunteer coordinators and a fundraiser banquet for her church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal.
“I’ve been recommending the location to a lot of other people, because it’s really great,” said Sprinkle-Hamlin, who also serves as director of the Forsyth County Public Library system. “Usually, it’s hard to find a facility in the east side of town, so I was interested to come and tour it, and I was really impressed. They have really good customer service.”
After patronizing traditional event venues downtown for years, Sprinkle-Hamlin said she is thrilled to be able to support a business in the black community and still create the high-caliber events she is known for.
“The Marriott is nice, but just to do something in your own community and to support that organization I think is very important,” she said. “…I support the community because the community has supported us over the years, so it’s my way of giving back in any way I can.”
The Conference & Banquet Center, which officially opened in October, occupies space in the old Boys & Girls Club facility, which is anchored by the Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation. The 4,700-plus square-foot facility boasts all the comforts of an established event center, with a focus on “community hospitality” that Event Manager Patricia Degraffinreaidt says is unmatched.
“This facility offers everything that you can get at a convention center or a Marriott,” she remarked. “…We have what it takes to give any company, any church anything that they would want to have here. We have the ability, the expertise, we have the professional staff.”
The CDC, which is affiliated with Winston-Salem State University, oversees the Conference & Banquet Center’s operations, which is one of the many benefits that set it apart from a traditional venue, Davis said.
“The proceeds all come back into the CDC’s budget, and we are a nonprofit community development organization, so all the proceeds a going right back into the community,” Executive Director Carol Davis noted.
The community mindedness of the CDC was part of what inspired the Winston-Salem Foundation’s Michael Clements to bring the Black Philanthropy Initiative’s annual fundraiser event to the Center on Oct. 3. The Foundation is a longtime financial supporter of Simon Green Atkins and a handful of other CDCs in the community, Clements explained.
“We thought it would be a good idea to use a facility that we actually supported and we were very pleased with the organization,” he said. “…It’s demonstrating the Foundation and Black Philanthropy’s priority of making sure we give back to the community. Going back into the community says something about the work that we’re trying to do.”
Clements, who serves as vice president of Community Investment for the Foundation, said he is already making plans to bring the event back there next year.
“It’s a beautiful location,” he declared. “I wish we could get more and more people of our total community to look at these venues.”
Initially, CDC leadership had envisioned the Center as a community gathering place, but it has exceeded their expectations, becoming an event venue that area residents are increasingly looking to as their destination of choice.
“I was pleasantly surprised that things have taken off like they have,” Davis remarked. “The community has really embraced it.”
Like the CDC, the Conference & Banquet Center has served as an economic driver. It is currently home to roughly five part time employees, and regularly utilizes the services of local chefs and caterers, helping them to gain name recognition and exposure in the broader community, Davis said. Brooklyn native Chris Screen credits The Enterprise Center with helping to launch his company, Indatainment Media Consultants. Screen, who left his job as a multimedia specialist at Winston-Salem State University to step out on his own, was among the first tenants in the CDC’s small business incubator.
“I wouldn’t have quit my day job if I didn’t have The Enterprise Center. I was just doing it for the extra money,” admitted Screen, whose products range from event videography to television commercials and independent films. “…I wasn’t taking it seriously. The Enterprise Center made me serious.”
Since the Conference & Banquet Center opened, Screen has had the chance to put his talents on full display, managing the audio/visual elements for Conference Center exhibitors and patrons, a gig that has already begun to land him clients outside the Center, Screen said.
“All of my contacts come from The Enterprise Center,” he revealed. “I get to meet a whole lot of people through a vast number of programs here.”
“We think there’s a good sense of pride in the community about what’s going on, the investment and the positive activity that’s going on,” she said. “I think the neighborhood takes pride in that.”
Degraffinreaidt believes the best is still to come for the Conference & Banquet Center, and the people it serves.
“I think the real impact is yet to be seen,” she said. “It’s like we’re on the tip right now. I just feel that there’s so much that’s about to happen right here with this Southeast community, positive things that are yet to be seen.”
For more information about The Enterprise Conference & Banquet Center, contact Patricia Degraffinreaidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 734-6916. For more information about Indatainment Media Consultants, visit www.indatainment.com or call 336-734-6920.