YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For its first 114 years, a stone church on Elm Street in Youngstown was the Richard Brown Memorial United Methodist Church, named after the owner of one of Youngstown’s early iron companies. Built in 1905, the former church is now the Richard Brown Event Center — the concept of two men with some spiritual intervention.
“I want it to be an event center where it’s doing good for the community and bringing people together, which we really need,” Rodd Coonce said.
Last April, he and Jack Peterson lost the building that housed their Dorian bookstore and floral shop, located five blocks away from the church.
They decided to go to the church’s desanctification ceremony because Peterson once taught Sunday school there.
“Rodd said, ‘Oh by the way, can we lease this?'” Peterson said.
By August, they had negotiated a one-year lease with the church and kept the Richard Brown name.
“To still honor his name, to still honor what they did in 1905,” Coonce said.
They removed half of the pews and replaced them with cabaret-style tables and chairs.
The building has hosted a Christmas party and several concerts, and it’s ideal for small weddings.
The social hall in the basement was transformed into a banquet area, though the fireplace mantel — which was once part of the Brown mansion downtown — remains.
In the full kitchen, they found another treat — cabinet upon cabinet of French-made Limoges China. As many as 80 place settings dating from when the church was built.
Coonce and Peterson were known for their Music on Madison concerts, many of which will be held at the church.
“We’re very lucky to be here and I think it’s going to work,” Peterson said.
Peterson and Coonce have a year to see how it’ll go. If it all works out, they plan to buy the church and put their personal touches on it, all while keeping the historical flavor of the building and neighborhood.