White paint stains on Carl Wise’s shorts and sweat on his forehead, prizes from a day of hard labor, make him look like just another one of the guys on the job.
Yet Wise has an unusual role in this project, a $4 million renovation of a former steakhouse, pool hall and nightclub in Sarasota. He not only lays tile, tightens doorknobs and puts in some 18-hour days. He’s also the boss of the operation, The Devyn, a multi-room event venue that can host parties and events for up to 1,000 people. Wise, who also owns Bee Ridge Florist and All Event Rental & Design, both in Sarasota, has been at The Devyn every day since May.
“I know exactly how things need to be,” says Wise, who isn’t related to area commercial real estate broker Carl Wise. “Plus, people work harder and move faster when they see the boss out there killing himself.”
Wise’s sweat equity, combined with his real equity, represents one of the more ambitious hospitality commercial real estate conversion projects in several years in Sarasota-Bradenton. The goal, Marketing and Event Manager Jennifer Matteo says, is to turn the 18,000-square-foot complex on U.S. 41 near Siesta Key, formerly Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse and Livingston’s Billiards, into a top-tier event spot. Matteo plans to target everything from weddings to corporate events.
Says Matteo: “We want to make it a destination.”
Wise, through All Event Rental & Design, paid $3 million for the building in April, according to Sarasota County property records. He says renovations will cost another $1 million.
That includes French doors, redone ceilings, polished concrete and hardwood flooring, exposed brick accents for a rustic feel in one room and new smart media technology. Those are some of the features Wise says are missing from other area event venues, a belief he’s picked up in 20 years of providing materials and flowers for parties and events.
Some challenges await The Devyn. For one, although it’s in a high-traffic location, there are few hotels nearby.
The event venue also enters a competitive market. A few blocks south is Mattison’s Forty-One, a restaurant with a private dining room for up to 100 people and an in-house catering department. About five miles north of The Devyn is Michael’s On East, with a ballroom that could host 550 guests for a seated event and 1,000 people for a reception. Another event venue, The Francis, opened in downtown Sarasota in early 2013.
Wise says those locations won’t have all the options available at The Devyn.
“I know every place in town inside and out,” says Wise. “What we are doing is taking the best parts of every place and making it all together here.”
A grand opening for The Devyn is scheduled for Sept. 6.
“We want to be more than just flowers or curtains,” Wise says. “We want to be an event production company. We can do it all.”