The unexpected closing of the Hearthstone Manor left engaged couples, meeting planners and community groups scrambling Thursday to find a replacement venue for their events, but wedding industry officials said other area facilities should easily handle the overflow business.
Word of the closing began circulating Thursday morning, and executives with the Buffalo Bridal Association and Buffalo Wedding Magazine confirmed the news. Owners of the venerable Depew events space did not respond to calls for comment, but posted a statement on their Facebook page Thursday evening.
The Hearthstone is set to close March 7, ending its 48-year run as one of the region’s largest and most popular event spaces, as a host to wedding receptions, political and union gatherings and a major Dyngus Day bash.
“Hearthstone Manor is a staple – a Western New York staple,” said Michael Fantaske, director of the bridal association.
The Hearthstone, at 333 Dick Road, opened in 1966 and was updated in a major renovation about two years ago, after its owners conceded the aging facility needed a “face-lift,” said Theo Wheeler, owner of the wedding magazine.
The venue could hold as many as 2,000 guests, with ample free parking, making it one of the few area venues that could comfortably host an event of that size.
The Hearthstone over the decades has hosted union meetings, nonprofit fundraising galas, conferences and wedding receptions by the hundreds. The Hearthstone for years has hosted the annual reorganizational meetings of both the Erie County Republican and Democratic committees.
Chris Flynn said the Hearthstone’s attentive service has kept the Amherst Gaelic League coming back to the facility for 25 years.
To show their appreciation, league members named longtime Hearthstone co-owner and general manager Richard F. Healy the first posthumous recipient of their Irishman of the Year honor after he died in 2010, said Flynn, the league’s treasurer.
“Losing that venue is not only a loss for us, but it’s a loss for the Western New York community,” he said.
“We’re saddened any time an old Buffalo institution closes,” said Richard Lipsitz Jr., president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation. “Hearthstone certainly was that. It was a union facility, so we’re saddened by that as well.”
Lipsitz said labor leaders would look to other venues with unionized work forces, including the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and Lucarelli’s Banquet Center in Lackawanna, to hold their events after the Hearthstone Manor is closed.
Calls to the Hearthstone weren’t returned Thursday, but owners posted a statement on Facebook.
“We are committed to meeting our obligations to our customers,” the statement said. “In order that our customers can rest assured that events booked with the Hearthstone will be honored, we are working with several partners in the hospitality business.
“The Hearthstone Manor remains open for business. Although we have no intention of discussing our guests’ events in a public forum, in the coming days we will personally call everyone who has an event booked with us to discuss exactly how we can accommodate them.”
Fantaske said Joe David, the Hearthstone’s general manager, had called to tell him the facility will close March 7.
It wasn’t known how many employees the Hearthstone has, and Wheeler said the news apparently surprised the staff.
Fantaske and Wheeler said they don’t know why the Hearthstone is closing, saying they believe the facility remained popular and well-booked. They also don’t know what will happen to the property.
State business records identify Carl Kidawski as chief executive officer of both Hearthstone Manor Inc. and Beachway Realty Corp., which is listed in county real estate records as the owner of 333 Dick Road. Kidawski did not respond to a phone message late Thursday afternoon.
As for brides-to-be who have booked events after March 7, Buffalo Bridal Association and Buffalo Wedding Magazine are working to find new venues for their wedding receptions.
The Hearthstone had booked 35 wedding receptions over the next 20 months that will have to be rebooked, Fantaske said, but that won’t be a problem.
“There’s definitely space in Buffalo. Finding a facility is not going to be an issue,” Wheeler said.
Engaged couples will have to check the language of their contracts with Hearthstone, Wheeler said, but, generally speaking, deposits for wedding receptions are nonrefundable, no matter who is at fault for the cancellation.
Fantaske said some of the venues that belong to the bridal association are offering to credit Hearthstone couples up to $500, or more, of their reception deposit.
Couples who had a reception booked at the Hearthstone should call that facility first and then call the bridal association at 884-5391 for more information. The wedding magazine, which also is serving as a liaison with venues and vendors, can be reached at 898-8193.
It appears that the Amherst Gaelic League’s 42nd annual Irish-American Appreciation Party on March 7 will be the last event in Hearthstone’s history. An Irish wake, if you will.
News Business Reporter Matt Glynn contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org