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Concept Studio thrives hosting small gatherings amid pandemic

Pre-pandemic, the downtown Youngstown space could seat 70 people for a dinner-style event or 110 people for a cocktail-style reception. In 2020, Concept Studio began offering small intimate wedding ceremonies and receptions with roughly 20 people, called “micro weddings.”

[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]

YOUNGSTOWN — “Your concept, your vision, our space” is how Mary Ann Meyer, owner of Concept Studio, described the open-concept event space in downtown Youngstown. 

Concept Studio, 217 W Federal St., has been in business since 2019. Meyer operates the venue with the help of her business partner and daughter Christina Porter. Porter also owns Sespe Burger in Boardman with her husband Jeff. 

“We have had meetings, we've had lots of parties, showers, we have had book signings, we've had several different styles of vendors markets, we've had music, shows, concerts, we've had record releases. I mean, we just try to be open to anything,” Meyer said. “We don't set a whole lot of rules, we like people to take the space and do what they like with it.” 

“We think our look, our venue .. .with the brick walls and [being the] second oldest building in Youngstown is kind of a unique feature to what we offer, rather than just a standard banquet type room. I think the ability for people to decorate themselves and do what they want in our space is something that a lot of places don't offer,” Meyer added. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Concept Studio hosted both private and community events, like monthly vegan bazaars and seasonal pop up shops. Pre-pandemic, the space could seat 70 people for a dinner-style event or 110 people for a cocktail-style reception. 

Then came the pandemic shutdowns and new guidance on venues like Concept Studio. Meyer told Mahoning Matters that her business went a few months of 2020 without hosting events, causing her to temporarily redirect the ‘concept’ of concept studio.

“We kind of restructured our thought process and what we were doing and the kind of events we could handle, and we tried accommodating more small intimate things to try and just keep us going through the year,” she said. 

In 2020, Concept Studio began offering small intimate wedding ceremonies and receptions with roughly 20 people, called “micro weddings” as well as intimate gatherings, like anniversary dinners. 

For micro weddings, Meyers said Concept Studio is rearranged to accommodate a small dinner, music for intimate dances like the couples first dance and father/daughter dance and Meyer rearranged the office to accommodate a bridal suite. 

“We had to find a way again to comply with distancing but to try and give people a place where they could go to feel safe,” Meyer said. “We are lucky to have enough space where we can change what we do and how we do it to accommodate whatever our clients like.” 

Concept Studio also has a prep kitchen equipped with food preparation space, fridge, ice machine and sinks. Meyer said guests must bring food themselves, through caterer, restaurant or otherwise. 

Although Concept Studio is preparing to go back to offering more community-focused events in 2021, Meyer said within the last few weeks the studio’s request for small intimate gatherings have gone up. 

“It's an exciting time to be in our business and hopefully we can accommodate a lot more people this year,” she said.

In April, Concept Studio is running a promotion: If customers book any 2021 date in the month of April, they will receive free floral centerpieces or a rose petal display. 

“It’s just something different that we can offer to get people to come back into downtown and, little by little, start more interactions and get out and celebrate some occasions,” Meyer said.