Cottage Event Center in Roanoke

Jim Amstutz and Gale Mann operate the Cottage Event Center in Roanoke, where they were photographed at the time of the venue’s fifth anniversary in 2017.

When the right opportunity presents itself, people sometimes need to take it, even if it’s not what others want.

This is what the owners of Cottage Event Center, Jim Amstutz and Gale Mann, chose when they decided to close its doors beginning in 2022.

While the pandemic was a factor in the decision to close, it’s not the only reason the duo made this decision.

“We have worked very hard, frankly, not to make it sound like things are terrible and we are destitute, and we’ve having to close up because we are starving,” Amstutz said. “It’s not that dire. I won’t pretend that the COVID thing didn’t hit us pretty hard, but I think that if we were all 10 years younger or something, we’d keep going.”

Amstutz said he and Mann are close to retirement age, and they felt that this would be a great time to stop. They took the pandemic as a sign that it was time to close shop.

This decision was made during the summer, Amstutz said. An official announcement was not made, but that is when they stopped reserving dates for 2022.

But one statement remains true, Amstutz and Mann did not want to ruin any of their clients’ events.

“We have heard horror stories of other facilities that have closed on very short notice and left people in the lurch with no place to have their wedding or whatever,” Amstutz said. “In fact, we’ve done events for people who got stuck like that several times over the years. We were not going to do that.”

According to Amstutz, a few events were scheduled for 2022, but they worked out solutions with those people to their satisfaction.

Upon opening in March 2012, the owners insisted that each show would be family-friendly.

Amstutz and John Mann opened The Cottage in a former bowling alley. The two had been business partners for many years, involved in marketing, and other hospitality and entertainment ventures. They once owned carnival equipment that they rented to traveling carnivals.

John Mann died in 2013. His wife, Gale Mann, and Amstutz now own Hamilton Hospitality Group, which operates The Cottage Event Center.

The first event held at the Cottage Event Center was a concert by Captn Jac on Aug. 10, 2012.

Amstutz recalled this event fondly.

“Quite frankly, we sold more tickets than we probably should have because it was so jam-packed in there people could hardly move,” Amstutz said.”I think we had 178 people, and we decided after that that we didn’t think we would ever sell a show again for more than about 120. We still fondly remember that night because everyone had a good time.”

Amstutz said there have been “really great artists” that have performed there throughout the years. Some of those include Kenny Taylor; Shannon Persinger and Eric Clancy; Island Vibe; The Junk Yard Band; and Sugar Shot. It also hosted comedy murder mystery productions.

“The original intent for the place was weddings, concerts and parties, things like that,” Amstutz said. “But our most booked day of the week was always Sunday though because we always seemed to have a bridal shower, baby shower, first birthday party or something like that on Sundays.”

Every show the venue hosted donated a portion of the proceeds to a local charity. Cottage Event Center will host two more concerts before the 2022 deadline, and these shows will also be making donations.

The first concert on Dec. 3 will feature She Shed, an all-female duo comprised of vocalist Jana Debusk and keyboardist Carly Ingalls. Holiday music will be played, and attendees are encouraged to donate a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots to distribute to needy area children. Pasta dinners will be available for purchase before showtime.

Tickets for this event are $12.

The final show on Dec. 31 will feature The Moon Cats, and they will perform music from the 1950s and ‘60s.

“The thing about The Moon Cats, we’ve had some great artists, but after that first time they played at our place, which was probably three or four years ago, after that, I never had anybody that I would get so many comments from people about when they were coming back,” Amstutz said. “There’s something kind of fitting about The Moon Cats closing us out.”

Tickets are $49 and include a prime rib dinner. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Oak Hill Farm.

Tickets for the final two events can be purchased by calling 260-483-3508, online at cottageeventcenter.com or visiting John’s Meat Market in Roanoke.

Amstutz wanted to thank the community for the support.

“We have had so many regulars, and I’m going to miss them,” Amstutz said. “We really enjoyed doing it. It was a lot of hard work, but we are going to miss it.”

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