By LOIS KINDLE
Looking for a venue for your wedding or special event and want something more memorable than the usual sites?
Chere Simmons and her husband, Steve, are now offering the public their newly opened South House, an option that’s sure to please anyone who likes the outdoors.
“We want to help people celebrate in style, while staying in line with your budget,” Simmons said. “Our vision is to provide an outdoor venue to couples who want to be practical about their finances yet desire a memorable event that will kickstart their new life together.”
South House is located at 2650 36th Ave. SE, Ruskin. Its 7,400 square-foot open barn features a private bridal suite, modern restrooms, caterer’s staging area, firepit, bar area (BYOB), ice machine, dimmable market lighting, two acres of parking and more, set among cabbage palms, Cypress trees and Cypress knees, aging oaks and a wide, open area around the barn that provides the perfect atmosphere of old Florida. It’s rustic, yet elegant.
Although weddings are the focus at South House, the venue is ideal for corporate events and business gatherings, quinceañeras, fundraisers, family reunions, special church services and the like. It’s open year ’round. Wedding season is normally October through May in Florida, but it’s not out of the question to host a summer nuptial, if desired.
There’s a set price of $3,500 for Saturday weddings, which includes four hours of setup and rehearsal time Friday night and all-day usage on Saturday until 11 p.m. There’s also a six-hour package for weddings of up to 100 people on weekdays and Sundays for $1,250. A security deposit of $250 is required upfront 30 days in advance for either package and is refundable pending damage assessment and cleanup. Low-cost event insurance is also required.
All other events start at $1,250, depending on the event, its duration and day of the week.
“We simply rent you the place, and you decide the details of how you want your wedding or event to be,” Simmons said.
How the South House idea was formed
When their daughter Chrissy was getting married 16 years ago and the Simmons’ were looking for a venue, they had a hard time finding the right one, and the engaged couple ended up getting married on a cruise.
“Most of the venues were either too expensive or not very nice at all,” Simmons said. “I remember thinking, ‘We could do this,’” she said.
Gradually her dream of offering folks a memorable yet affordable wedding venue without the stress of a huge bill began taking shape.
“I believe couples should take that money and put it into something more tangible like a home,” she said.
Simmons and her husband have been building the South House slowly over the past seven years, working on it here and there as a retirement project. They named it The South House to reflect their southern roots and hospitality.
The couple — members of multi-generational Florida families and Ruskin residents since they married in 1974 – own a local concrete finishing company and tropical fish farm. They’ve opened South House as Simmons is set to retire within the next couple of months from her longtime career as an editor and creative director in the newspaper industry, including 22 years at The Observer News.
“Although I will miss being a part of the newspaper and some very fine people I’ve worked with, I’m excited about this new chapter in my life,” Simmons said. “I’m so happy to have played a role in promoting local journalism in the community.”
She will be handling the day-to-day operation of South House, while her husband takes on more of a management role in Steve Simmons Concrete. Their son, Ty, will become its operational foreman. Simmons and her husband will also expand their roles in the fish farm, Steve Simmons Aquatics.