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Half Acre Co-Founder, Charlie Trotter’s Alum to Open a Wedding Venue

Walden should debut this spring in West Town

A rendering of a wedding venue with a bar on the right and tables and chairs on the right.
A rendering of Walden, an upcoming event venue.
Walden [Official Rendering]
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Couples planning their weddings have a new event venue to consider, one that will serve food from a chef who worked at Charlie Trotter’s and drinks from the co-founder of Half Acre Beer Company. Walden is a new two-floor, 19,000-square-foot venue that should debut this spring at 2145 W. Walnut Street. Named after Henry David Thoreau’s ode to solitude, Walden pledges to make throwing parties less stressful and will offer the services of one of Chicago’s most reputable planners, Plum & Ivy Events.

Plum & Ivy’s Maria Collins is teaming up with Half Acre’s Maurizio Fiori, Nick Schmuck (Real Kitchen catering), and Bob Krause. Although Fiori does have the inside track if customers want any Half Acre beers, Walden is a venture separate from the brewery. The first-floor bar’s 20 taps will feature brews from different beer makers. They’re even working toward a collaboration with Midwest Coast Brewing, the beer maker that opened earlier this year next door. Walden will have room for 300 for seated events and 500 for cocktail receptions. There’s a 32-foot bar on the first floor and a 12-foot bar on the second floor. Fiori is also working on the venue’s drink list.

A computer rendering of an event space set up for a wedding with empty white chairs.
A rendering of Walden, which will have a 300-seat capacity for seated events.
Walden [Official Rendering]

By offering Plum & Ivy’s services and Schmuck’s culinary skills (he spent a year cooking at Charlie Trotter’s in Lincoln Park), Walden’s owners want to make throwing a party easier so customers aren’t forced to scramble for caterers, decorators, and other vendors. The venue is supposed to be a one-stop shop. The group came together believing that event venues don’t provide customers with enough support. Krause and Collins met while working at an event planning company in 2008. They saw an opportunity to reduce costs and streamline the process, Krause said.

“We can make that stressful day a little bit more enjoyable,” Fiori said, talking about wedding planning.

Collins interjected: “It’s more like a stressful year for people.”

While Schmuck has a 1,000-square-foot kitchen at his disposal to meet customer needs, ownership recognizes that there may be some special cultural requests. For example, an event may call for a Sardinian suckling pig. They’ll work with customers to accommodate unique needs: “We can source anything you want,” Schmuck said.

A group photo of Maria Collins, Bob Krause, Maurizio Fiori, and Nick Schmuck
Team Walden (from left to right): Maria Collins, Bob Krause, Maurizio Fiori, and Nick Schmuck
Walden [Official Photo]

The location is also unique, Collins said. It’s not in a residential area so there’s no worry about noise complaints. In Collins’s experiences, that’s a big positive for throwing an event with live music.

Ownership also wants the venue to be environmentally friendly. They’re aiming to reduce single-use plastic goods. Schmuck said they’ll offer customers ways to reduce their event’s carbon footprints. Making weddings greener is a hotly debated topic on the internet.

The venue’s already taking bookings for a spring debut.