For more than 20 years, Wadsworth Mansion has been known as a beautiful event space, primarily for weddings. With more than 100 acres, the grounds also provide ample space to explore nature. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many wedding plans changing, the Wadsworth Mansion needed to pivot and refocus. Executive Director Megan Bush talked to MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about embracing the “new normal.”
NAN PRICE: How has Wadsworth Mansion responded to the current pandemic?
MEGAN BUSH: Our main demographic as a wedding venue means our website and social media are filled with photos of ceremonies on the grounds and links to our vendors. Now, a lot of lives have been put on hold and many people have paused wedding planning. We still get some questions and we just began opening for scheduled wedding tours.
As a business, we’ve been more focused on the revenue generating side of things and ensuring that’s healthy and on the forefront of everything we do. But moving forward, we’re going to put more time and resources into ensuring that the greater community understands what we can offer them aside from an event venue.
In the last month or so, we completely pivoted the content we provide to be more family focused and really centered on our parklands and walking trails. We’re open the public every day. Some educational signs are posted throughout the grounds to provide a bit of history as far as the cultural landscape. So, even if you don’t come inside for a tour, you can still get a quick history. The grounds are beautiful and it’s spacious, so people can enjoy them and safely remain socially distanced.
With parents home with kids and looking for activities, we’ve been able to tap into our local community and a different demographic. It’s been nice to connect with that demographic and understand how we can better serve their needs. And, we’ve seen interesting traffic trends on our website as far as what pages are now more popular. It’s been helpful for us to what learn what content we can provide that relates to our place in our community.
NAN: Tell us about the corporate team building packages you’re planning once businesses reopen.
MEGAN: Sure. I joined Wadsworth Mansion last year. Prior to that, I spent about six years working in Hartford at several different venues. The corporate event community in Hartford is very strong and I’ve built great relationships with all my corporate clients. We wanted to somehow transfer that here and fill in the available midweek spots. The mansion is a great place for companies that want to get their team out of the boardroom in a different, more creative environment.
Last year, we started some team building packages, which we were going to release this March and offer to some of my previous clients. Then, unfortunately, we had to close. But there’s always a silver lining, and I think when we reopen after COVID-19, there’s going to be a demand because so many teams have been working separately for months. So, it might be nice to bring them back together.
NAN: What else is next in terms of reopening?
MEGAN: As I mentioned earlier, we’re slowly starting wedding tours. We’re still planning our concert series in July. We understand there will be some social distancing and more management on our part for extra security. We’re absolutely fine with that because we have a great lineup of bands this year. Hopefully, that can be something people can look forward to—get out on a Wednesday night, come to the mansion, have a picnic, and listen to some music with friends you haven’t seen for a couple months.
NAN: What’s the biggest takeaway from this experience?
MEGAN: Our staff came up with new ideas that maybe we wouldn’t have thought of before, simply because we had to. It’s been great connecting with the community, making sure the community knows we’re here, and asking them what we can do for them at the end of all of this.
We’ve been able to see who our new customers are—not just paying customers in the traditional sense, but more people who support the mansion and our cause and want to stay up to date with anything we’re doing and provide us with ideas and feedback.
So, it’s been a learning experience. I think we’ll be a lot more resilient after this. We’ve all been able to weather the storm together and understand that, while not every day will be a great day, at the end of this, we are going to come out of it stronger and with a more cohesive community around us.