This story originally appears in the Summer 2021 print issue of Downtown Kenosha Magazine
How long have you been running Shel’s Bridal and when did you open the Vault?
Shels Bridal opened in Downtown Kenosha after leaving Racine in early 2017. The Vault was planning to open in March of 2020 then COVID and the riots pushed our opening dates to October of 2020.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I’m a retired middle school teacher and (my husband) Kevin has a business background. Both of us are history buffs which was part of what excited us about the space. We didn’t have to come up with a concept it was already there. We just had to mold it.
How did you get involved with taking over the first floor of the historic bank building and transforming it?
We originally had looked at the space as a possibility for expanding Shel’s Bridal which was originally in a smaller space on the second floor. After speaking with the owners of the building (the Kook family) we determined that using the space for our event planning business made more sense.
Did you find any treasure when you first starting exploring the old bank?
The Vault is filled with treasures! I think the coolest things we found were the bank pieces and furniture which we were able to transform to create our bars, and all of the history we were able to uncover.
What kind of events do you host at the Vault?
We have hosted weddings, proms, pageants, drag shows, Kenosha HarborMarket, homecomings, birthday parties and even some musical events.
To someone that is new in the area can you describe what the Vault is all about?
The Vault has a large banquet room that holds up to 250. It is in this historic building and actually has 3 floors of event space with seven break-out rooms which means we can host corporate and school events as well. We tried very hard to make The Vault a beautiful space with lots of Kenosha character. The ornate ceiling, skylights, marble stairs and floors are original to the building. We added chandeliers and antique furniture from all over Kenosha and have a beautiful Steinway grand piano in our main hall.
Why did you choose to located your business in Downtown Kenosha?
It’s our home. We live less than a mile away. We spend our time downtown and appreciate the small businesses – we try to support as many as possible.
What do you offer that stands out from other venues?
We offer full service wedding packages at affordable prices. So that the day of the event you can literally show up and enjoy yourself without having to worry about setup, cleanup or any issues that could arise.
What makes the Vault so special?
We are family. Family owned and operated with a mix of crazy, fun, and professionalism. Our employees are trained on every aspect of making your event exactly what you want. Every employee is an integral piece of The Vault experience and whether they are bartending, taking out garbage, or managing guest comfort they have learned to do their job in a way that is consistent and leads to overall success.
The Vault is also home to the indoor Public Market in the fall/winter, how did that all come together & how did it work out?
I just mentioned in passing that if they ever needed anything we would love to be a part of it. Within two weeks, they were touring the space and making plans and we are already planning on having them back later this year.
What has been you most unusual experience so far?
Oh boy, probably the the drag shows – they are so fun and bring in great crowds!
Where can we find you on your day off?
Depends… either spending time with our grandbabies or (if they aren’t around) barhopping at some of our favorite places in Downtown Kenosha.
Q&A & photos by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman