Every good party tells a story and for more than 30 years, Epting Events has been writing these memorable stories, bringing the charm of southern hospitality to life in Athens, Georgia. Weddings, corporate gatherings, social events, parties, nonprofit fundraisers – Epting Events takes care of it all, combining the expertly executed disciplines of space, lighting, floral, décor and cuisine to make any event of any size special and unique.
“We are the storytellers that infuse an event with all the essential details that bring our clients’ story to life,” says Ashley Epting, CEO of Epting Events and son of Lee Epting, founder and owner of the company.
Today, the family-run company offers a variety of venues to its clientele, including an early 1900s cotton plant; a ballroom overlooking the night lights of historic downtown Athens. Also, what Lee like to call an orphanage for antebellum and early 20th century homes –a venue site complete with a Victorian manor house, with a cottage, gazebo and acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.
Epting Events has a location to match any imaginable event and the company can also handle all of the details from beginning to end.
“I used to tell my wedding clients, I can do everything but actually marry you,” laughs Lee. “I think the most important aspect of what we do is that everything is real and genuine. From cooking in a plantation using real cast iron pots to the story behind the food – the glasses we’re drinking from and the silverware; we try to offer a real story. You can touch it, feel it and experience it unlike anywhere else. There’s true authenticity in our events and that’s what makes us different.”
Chapter 1: The catering
Epting Events was founded by Lee in Athens in 1971 originally as Lee Epting catering. “At the time we had one of the first restaurant-nightclubs in Athens, along with some small retail shops in an old train station,” remembers Lee. “Things continued to grow but really took off in 1996 when the Olympics came to town and we did most of the catering. After that we stuck with catering for a long time.”
After emerging as an established caterer in the Southeast, Lee began enjoying a side hobby of restoring historic southern homes. Today, these projects have evolved into Epting Event’s venue site options for all clients to enjoy.
“Once I started restoring homes, I thought I would make bed-and-breakfasts out of them but my wife didn’t go for that idea and I decided they could make fine spaces for weddings, parties and other special events,” says Lee.
Daniel Epting, chief operating officer of Epting Events and son of Lee, has also completed many historic preservation and restoration projects of his own.
The Cotton Press at Chase Park Warehouse is a beautifully restored venue featuring exposed brick and industrial steel beam work. The venue also includes a ballroom and ceremony space.
“This venue is about 8,000 square feet and can accommodate 500 guests,” adds Daniel.
Chapter 2: The big screen
As Epting Events has evolved, the company has come to house many unique business ventures, including Grit Tree Productions, a television production company spearheaded by Ashley.
“I remember what inspired me; Dad was in a short film called Cudzoo in the ‘70s and it was nominated for an Academy Award,” says Ashely, who went on to study film at NYU and then worked in the business for some big production houses in California.
When he came back to Georgia, Ashley wanted to keep this passion alive. “We found some local actors, raised some money and shot a short film on our property in Athens,” he recounts. “Warner Brothers picked it up and it was on Showtime.”
Looking for another project in TV with a shorter turnaround time, Ashley and his partner and executive producer, Scott Meier came up with the idea for Black Tie & BBQ, a travel and event show that showcases how Epting Events and its crew pulls off everything event – from high-end galas to simple backyard barbecues, often in the name of charity.
“We decided to use the show to highlight our nonprofit parties and bring them into the public eye while partnering to raise more money for the cause,” says Ashley.
Since starting, Black Tie & BBQ has been quite a hit and has been picked up by Comcast Xfinity’s Video On Demand platform. “It’s running in the southern U.S. now and is soon to be released through Chicago and going out to the West Coast,” adds Ashley. “We’re in the middle of planning for season two.”
The purpose is to bring the event planning scene in the south to life with real characters, while also raising awareness for the charities Epting Events frequently partners with.
“While we are funny, zany and at times irreverent, we’re ultimately respectful and really understand hospitality,” measures Ashley. “At the end of the day people have to completely trust you to take care of their party and make all of their problems go away.”
The trio will continue to design and plan events for their clients, but also continue to play a part in writing the Epting Events story through memorable event design and planning backed by classic southern hospitality.