Journey to a profitable venue | Simpson Barn

Julia’s note: This is the last article about the Simpson Barn, January’s Barn of the Month. It was written by Ron Ward.

simpson barn johnston iowa

The barn sits next to its house and windmill

In an effort to make the Barn more user friendly as possible, we purchased equipment. Folding tables and chairs were bought and the Barn was stocked so there was seating available for 200. Picnic tables were added for outdor seating on the patio and the deck. Since only the lower level is air conditioned, two large floor fans were purchased to help cool the Barn. With a furnace only in the lower level, a method was needed to provide some heat in the Barn. Kerosene heaters, rented from an equipment rental store, were found to work great. Our Fire Chief checked the operation of these heaters testing the surface temperature on the wood floor and the carbon monoxide level, and approved their use. We purchased hearth pads to set the heaters on, but the Barn users must rent the heaters.

interpretive display simpson barn johnston iowa

Part of an interpretive exhibit inside the Simpson Barn

We have been pleasantly surprised by the popularity of the Barn. Use doubled from 2006 to 2007 and it is on pace this year to set a new standard. Word of mouth has proven to be our best advertising. The Barn has been rented every month of the year for events ranging from wedding receptions to family reunions, graduations to retirements, arts and crafts sales to company picnics. The popularity of the Barn increased enough that we had to limit non-profits to only 4 free hours a month. We allow people to reserve it one year in advance and we literally have people calling first thing in the morning, one year to the date from their event to make sure thye get it. The most popular months are May and June due to graduations, weddings, and reunions. We have been talking about installing a forced air furnace to heat the Barn. If we do that, we will raise the rental rate some to help defray the cost. The trick will be to make sure the heating system doesn’t detract from the rustic appeal.

I really enjoyed it when I told the Public Works Director that my “albatross” was self sufficient in 2007, with revenue exceeding expenses by $788.

Ron Ward is the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Johnston, Iowa.



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a diverse background for a unique perspective.
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