Did you know that Catering by Michaels isn’t just a catering company — we’re also the proud owners of a popular event venue in Libertyville, IL?
The relationship between Independence Grove and Catering by Micheals goes back as far as 1990, when we were first presented with a partnership opportunity. At the time, Independence Grove wasn’t the gorgeous forest preserve it is today — it was still a cement quarry that definitely wasn’t a public hangout!
When we were offered the opportunity to partner up with the Lake County Forest Preserve, we were still quite new as a company — having been initially founded just a few years earlier, in 1985. Knowing that we still too young to justify the big risk involved in this opportunity, we turned it down.
The cement quarry was still in operation for a few more years after this but Independence Grove was starting to come together around it. Looking back, we don’t regret the decision to initially pass on the opportunity as this development took longer than initial estimates. The building that we now operate in began construction on the Visitors Center. This second contact happened as the result of our catering efforts at a beautiful local day camp that hired us to book and cater weekend corporate picnics. The LCFPD representative who we eventually closed a 10 year partnership agreement with was a parent to one of the young employees at the day camp who couldn’t stop talking about our success there and how much they loved our food! How’s that for serendipitous?
In 1999, we began the sales effort to promote the Visitors Center for weekend weddings, mitzvahs and whatever else came along. We did not have a model, but a drawing, floor plan and menus worked, and it was not a “difficult sell”. The venue was completed in 2001 and we opened our office there in January 2001 and hosted our first event in March 2001.
Once the development of Independence Grove forest preserve was finished, we were again approached by a representative for Lake County Forest Preserves.
This second contact happened as the result of our catering efforts at a local day camp that hired us to help with weekend picnics. The representative who we eventually closed a partnership deal with was a parent to one of the kids at this camp who couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved our food! How’s that for serendipitous?
Once the papers were signed and the ink dried, we started operating offices and events out of the Visitor’s Center at Independence Grove. After the recession in the early 2000s, this was still a huge financial strain for our small but growing company. Eventually, we ramped up to hit our best numbers in 2006, satisfied in knowing that we made the right choice in closing this partnership deal. Word of mouth from happy clients has helped us to stay afloat, even during the most trying times in our business.
Today, we’re the exclusive licensee for all food service in the Independence Grove forest preserve, with a full-service kitchen on-site. Though Lake County Forest Preserves provided us with a fully supplied kitchen and other rentals necessary to host events, we’ve added to this foundation with additional equipment necessary to satisfy our corporate and social clientele: new tables, sound systems, and more.
During the week, Events at Independence Grove (the official name of our corporate entity in this space) hosts mostly corporate clients. On weekends, it’s primarily social functions: weddings, bar mitzvahs, baptisms, quinceañera, and showers.
Our indoor space has the capability to divide into four separate rooms, which means that we can host multiple meetings at the same time. For social events, we’re typically hosting one at a time but when the whole building isn’t rented, we will host two events at opposite ends of the building.
Events at Independence Grove are a celebration. People consider this to be their happy place thanks to natural surroundings accessible thanks to large windows that let in ample sunshine. Though most of the events we host are meetings and parties, we’ve also booked events that involve celebrations of life and memorials for beloved friends and family members who have passed away.
Today, Independence Grove is Lake County’s #3 tourist attraction, understandably behind big draws like Six Flags and Great Wolf Lodge (previously known as Key Lime Cove). Besides a wonderful event space, there are plenty of exciting outdoor activities to take part in while you’re here, including multiple trails and water activities. Independence Grove is on the Des Plaines River Trail but also offers five extra miles of trails that are not counted as part of this.
If you’re planning an event that could benefit from beautiful surroundings and great service, consider Events at Independence Grove. Get in touch to learn more about how this space can suit your needs!