Planning & Inspiration
Interview With Allison Du Val, Managing Director of The Foundry
“There is that family aspect – both my parents and I still live in parts of the building. We are at The Foundry every day and consider it our home.” For The Foundry’s Managing Director Allison Du Val, running one of New York City’s premier event venues is much more than just a job. She grew up in The Foundry, skipping through the building’s maze-like corridors and exploring its raw grounds daily. Over the next two decades, she watched the former metal foundry, which was also her home, transform into a captivating space for hosting weddings and exclusive parities. Never losing the awe and wonder that filled her imagination as a child, Allison deeply understands and cares about the history, character, and spirit of the building.
Bride & Blossom has done numerous weddings at The Foundry over the years. Allison’s love for and connection to the building is sensed in every aspect of her work. You really do feel that she is opening up her home, letting you use its most beautiful and intimate parts to create precious memories for others. For these reasons and more, we couldn’t wait to feature Allison in our Women Paving the Aisle Interview Series. Our conversation took place just before the Covid-19 situation escalated in the United States. As you read on, consider this a letter from the past with thoughts of hope for the future.
We always like to start from the beginning. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
The Foundry is a family building. My parents bought the property in 1981 when I was born. I have lived in different parts of The Foundry throughout my life and remember running around and playing here as a little girl. And over the years, my parents did design work on both the interior and outdoor spaces.
Built in the 19th century, the Foundry is a building with a lot of history. You’ve been managing events at the venue from day one. How did you become involved in the business?
I went to college in New York City and ended up leaving school after my first year. Forced to come back home, I started looking for ways to redeem myself in the eyes of my parents. I began throwing raves and parties in The Foundry. My parents always knew this could be an amazing space for events, but just didn’t know how to actually execute the idea. So at 20 years old, with no real experience, I began coordinating huge parties for friends and weddings for family members. Our first contract was two paragraphs long and basically stated, “If you don’t sue me, I won’t sue you. Have a nice wedding.” I learned the business by direct experience. Now 19 years later, The Foundry is at the top of venue lists in both New York City and the country. It feels great to be recognized by the industry.
Today, Long Island City is a thriving neighborhood. This was not so much the case in 2001 when The Foundry started hosting events. What were those early years like? How did you handle the challenge of getting people to consider a venue outside of Manhattan?
It was very challenging during those early days. At that time, the neighborhood was completely empty and without taxi traffic. We had to call black cars to pick people up, which took a frustratedly long time. Eventually, I drove my car to areas with yellow cabs and paid drivers five dollars to drive by The Foundry. There was also the confusion that the venue was in Long Island. Now, our location is not even a question.
What do you see as the reasons behind The Foundry’s success?
Every cobblestone, brick, and vine of ivy is cherished. We are always looking for ways to enhance the venue space and really consider it an extension of our home. We care so deeply about the building, its surroundings, and the people who gather under its roof. The history and age of The Foundry certainly lends to its appeal. The atmosphere cannot be replicated anywhere else.
We love that The Foundry is led by a team of women. Can you tell us about your team’s dynamic? What have you done to ensure that clients’ expectations are met while maintaining a healthy and supportive work environment?
We have a wonderful team. Angela Ortiz, our Venue Director, has been with us for almost nine years. And Lindsey Hamma, our Events Manager, has been with us for about four years. We are very supportive of each other. As women, we have the ability to be sensitive to the client’s needs while maintaining a strong work ethic. That’s an aspect that we’ve really keyed in on. Producing events, you can say “No,” but still do everything that is in your means to make sure the client is happy. It’s really about maintaining a balance between saying “No” with a smile, and “Yes” with enthusiasm.
We can only imagine the pressure and demands that come with running a major event venue in New York City? How do you keep your cool?
Being able to work under pressure is essential for anyone in the events industry. When things get difficult is when we really shine. Laser focus and the ability to make decisions in the moment – I think that you either have it or you don’t. Look at people who have been successful in the event industry for a long time and you’ll see that they definitely have these qualities. And we are constantly working from a space where if a problem does arise, the next day we sit down and ask, “What did we learn from this experience?” We actually celebrate with the understanding that we learned a valuable lesson.
What makes The Foundry such a unique place to have a wedding? Can you walk us through the various spaces available to couples who are married there?
The building is over 100 years old – the cornerstone dates to 1906. My Mom and Dad put a lot of work into renovation while honoring the building’s history. The tall chimney shafts, underground tunnels, cauldrons and furnaces are still there. The main space is the all brick room with archways and natural lighting where ceremonies are most often held. The Greenhouse features brick walls with sprawling ivy that grows indoors all year round. The Albra Room is our newest space. The venue originally housed the Albra Metal Foundry – the name pays homage to this historical detail. The room has amazing furnace pits covered with glass that light up at night. The Courtyard is magnificent because you really get a sense of the entire building with views of the ivy covered exterior and Queensboro Bridge. The ivy is seasonal and starts to grow in April, flourishes through spring and summer, and then changes color during fall.
Bride & Blossom has had the pleasure of doing many weddings at The Foundry over the years. In terms of style, each one is different from the next. What are your favorite ways to see the venue decorated?
First, I just want to say that I love your ability to make these ceremony backdrops that are just bursting with life. The ceremony happens first and really sets the mood for the rest of the day. I always get excited when couples are adventurous, step out of the box, and choose to incorporate bright colors in the space.
What do you like most about doing weddings?
On average, we do about 115 weddings a year. I look forward to seeing each couple’s unique spin. Seeing two people express their personality to make it truly their special day is wonderful. Nothing feels better than when the mom and dad, brother and uncle all give you a hug at the end of the night and say, “Thank you. You helped to create beautiful moments for our family.” The ultimate reward.
Congratulations on your recent wedding! We have to ask, were you able to relax at all despite knowing the ins and outs of the venue and vendors? What were your favorite details and moments from the day?
I was totally relaxed, and kept thinking, “Should I be worrying about something?” It was only weird to be at a wedding at The Foundry and not have my keys on me! My team of vendors were incredible. Polka Dot Events did the planning – they made me feel so comfortable and so at ease. From Pariss with Love was our photographer – they did an amazing job of capturing all the emotion and telling our story. Seeing the photos for the first time felt like reliving our wedding all over again. Ivie Joy did the flowers, 74 Events provided the music, and Universal Light and Sound oversaw the sound and lighting. Heirloom Fire did open air cooking in The Courtyard, which was really unique, with staffing and after bites by Comparti Catering. Broadway Party Rentals and Patina supplied the furniture accessories. I’ve worked with some of these vendors for over a decade and consider them all friends as well colleagues. Having them create this amazing day for us moved me to tears.
If you could have one couple throughout all of history get married at The Foundry, who would it be?
I love this question and will keep thinking about it after giving you my answer. But right now, the first thought is my own children. I cannot imagine a more beautiful gift than honoring what my parents have created by having my children walk down the aisle in their own wedding at The Foundry.
What advice do you have for our readers who are thinking about starting their own business?
People are your best resource. From the start, we have had an amazing team working for us. I truly believe that your success is dependent on how happy your staff is – their attitude reflects in every aspect of the business. By maintaining a positive and supportive work environment where your team’s needs are met, creativity will flourish. At the end of the day, your business is only as good as the people who work for you.
How do you stay creatively inspired?
The vendors who come through The Foundry are always inspiring me. After working on about 1,000 weddings in my lifetime, I continue to be surprised. New York City is a melting pot of creative, forward-thinking people. I also love to travel and get a lot of ideas from seeing how venues in other countries use space and think outside of the box.
You finally have a day off. How do you spend it?
I have two speeds. You can either find me continuing to be the host. My husband and I love to entertain, making a 5-course meal for 20 of our friends and family is typical. My second speed is basically comatose on the couch binge-watching murder mysteries.