Minneapolis was once known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.” Remnants of the city’s heyday can be found up and down historic Main Street along the banks of the Mississippi River. Once such remnant is the Pillsbury A-Mill. Built in 1916, it was once the largest working mill in the world. One hundred years later, in 2016, Jessica Barrett and her partners breathed new life into the industrial space and reopened it as a modern and luxurious event space. Since then, Machine Shop has hosted countless weddings, corporate, and private events, including many of Pollen’s Work Redux events. Jessica recently shared with us what went into transforming this historical gem into the flexible space it is today.
Hero Photo by Bruce Silcox
Pollen: Machine Shop is a historic venue which dates back to 1916. What were some challenges, if any, Machine Shop faced during renovation to turn it into a suitable venue for various kinds of events while preserving its rich history?
Jessica Barrett: The building itself was in wonderful shape despite the fact that it was sitting vacant for years. The renovation was a team effort with our developers, architects, and the State Historic Preservation Office, which provided specific parameters and guidelines to ensure the integrity of the 1916 construction was preserved while creating a space for a variety of events. Keeping the original hardwood floors on the second level, for example, required some creativity on behalf of the team. We are so pleased that the historic elements were able to be saved and incorporated into the venue design.
What prompted you to open Machine Shop?
The three owners found the building so dynamic, and through many conversations with multiple industries, decided that it would be best as a versatile event space. Once Jessica Barrett was brought on as executive director, construction plans were altered to accommodate for events and a small but mighty team was assembled to make Machine Shop what it is today.
What’s different about Machine Shop compared to other event venues in Minneapolis-St. Paul?
Machine Shop has such innate character that can be enhanced simply or extravagantly for events. The variety of event styles we see is so inspiring. The venue is accessible for different aesthetics because it has a clean, neutral palette. With over 18,000 square feet of space and two levels, there is flexibility for large and small events.
Machine Shop serves as a venue for events like weddings and even aerialist performances. What are some of your favorite ways clients have used the space?
We do get to see a lot in the space! Our favorite is when the sun pours through the windows and highlights the clients’ decor.
With your aesthetic expertise, clients must often ask for your recommendations as well. What tips do you have for how people can use the space?
We would say the most important thing when planning an event is to know your intentions and your guests’ needs. The best event is one that’s tailored to the specific group! We love collaborating with other vendors and creatives in the industry, tapping into all of the amazing talent we have here in town. The Twin Cities is rich with artists, performers, and creative problem solvers; incorporating the community as much as possible makes for unforgettable experiences.