Listen to the Podcast About First Batch Hospitality

Podcast for First Batch Hospitality

Podcast Summary

In the latest episode of Eventful Endeavors, hosted by Mike Sherman from Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos, we had Michele Grasser, a seasoned events planner with over 20 years experience in weddings and events. Michele discussed her recent role as events marketing manager for First Batch Hospitality. Her portfolio includes three urban wineries located in Chicago, DC, and Brooklyn.

Michele emphasized the uniqueness of each location, noting their distinct vibes which are influenced by their respective cities. She describes their services and food as exceptional and fresh, with the entire team at First Batch Hospitality maintaining a high standard to ensure stress-free and memorable events.

The conversation also touched on the topic of urban wineries. Michele distinguishes them from typical vineyards, explaining that at their locations, they make all the wine in-house using grapes flown in from all over the country. This feature makes their locations unique, particularly for those who want city weddings or events with a winery ambiance.

She noted that while the three locations have some similarities, each offers a unique aesthetic. For instance, the Brooklyn location has a neighborhood vibe, while the DC winery offers a waterfront venue complete with a rooftop event space.

For more exciting insights into the world of event planning and venue selection, particularly with respect to First Batch Hospitality, tune into Eventful Endeavors with your host, Mike Sherman of Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Podcast Transcript

Mike Sherman (00:24)
All right. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another exciting episode of Eventful Endeavors. I’m your host, Mike Sherman with Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos. Today, I’m so happy to be interviewing a longtime friend of mine, Michele Grasser. She’s been in the events industry for over 20 years planning weddings and events. I feel like I’ve probably known you, I’d say for at least 10 years. I mean, a while. She’s been planning weddings and events all over the Midwest, represented some of the most gorgeous venues, certainly some of my favorite venues she’s worked at. She’s…

Michele Grasser (00:30)



Mike Sherman (00:53)
recently has taken over as the event’s marketing manager for three urban winery locations, one in Chicago, one in DC, one in Brooklyn. So we’re like, we’re talking national stuff here. Each has a unique vibe that leans on the city and the locations. The teams in service are above all others. The food is fresh and unique. And if you know Michele, everyone that works for Enosha is the highest standards to provide a stress free event that everyone will remember forever. And that’s certainly my experience with Michele.

Michele Grasser (01:19)
Thank you.

Mike Sherman (01:23)
is no stress just like everything’s ready to go ready to rock that’s how I like to do things to just keep things fun and chill and have a great time so how do you do Michele that seem like a pretty a pretty good sum up of where you’re at what you’re doing right now

Michele Grasser (01:34)
It does, it does, and it sums up the past that we’ve had for the last like ten plus years. So yeah, an introduction.

Mike Sherman (01:42)
Absolutely. Great. Well, yeah, we’re so glad to have you on the podcast here. So I guess start telling me a little bit about these winers. So what is an urban winery? And tell me, you know, kind of what’s the difference between the three that we’re talking about here today?

Michele Grasser (01:55)
Yeah, so we at all three of our locations, we have on -site wineries where we make all of the wine in -house. So we have grapes flown in from all over the country, just kind of depends on each year. But we make all the wine that we serve here in -house. And then all of our locations are, you know, obviously in the heart of the cities that we’re located in. So that’s kind of what makes it unique. People are like, you know, you don’t have, like you’re not growing the grapes here, you know, or you’re not an actual vineyard. So that’s…

kind of makes us unique as an urban winery. So, you know, people who do want to have a city wedding or a city event, but love that winery vibe or love wine, this makes it very unique. So.

Mike Sherman (02:39)
Yeah, that’s awesome. I write and it’s like that’s not something you even kind of think exists sometimes like you just presume kind of everything is out, you know, hours away and something like that. And just to know that there’s these cool places right here in these big metropolis kind of cities. So that’s awesome. And so what we said, we said Chicago, DC and Brooklyn. So what are the kind of different? I mean, like are they identical venues just in three different places or you said they all kind of, you know, emphasize like the locations a little bit. Tell me a little bit about that. You know, what’s, what’s cool about each one of them.

Michele Grasser (02:53)

Yeah, so they’re each very unique. We don’t follow any kind of, you know, standard per se other than like the wineries themselves, but they are similar in some capacities, but then each one is very different. So, you know, go to Brooklyn and it is just definitely more neighborhood vibe. You go to district. District is on the waterfront.

Mike Sherman (03:27)

Michele Grasser (03:31)
So gorgeous with a rooftop. It’s actually all of our events are upstairs on the rooftop. So you have that outdoor element with it as well that is covered, which is very nice because as we know, weather is always unpredictable. And then in Chicago, our Chicago location, we do have a four season terrace with that space too. So, and we’re talking like the heart of Chicago. So we’re located in River North. So it’s really nice to have that.

Mike Sherman (03:45)
And then in Chicago, our Chicago location, we do have a…

Michele Grasser (03:58)
outdoor vibe again that’s completely covered but can be opened up. So no matter what the weather is we do have that option you know for your event. So they’re similar in some capacities but again like very unique and then the locations are also just very different as well. So very unique.

Mike Sherman (04:17)
Nice. Yeah, no, that’s amazing. I don’t know. I love that. And I’m yeah, I mean, so I’m here in Chicago, of course. So it’s like I’m familiar with the location here. But yeah, it’s I mean, we have a big team in D .C. and we do a lot out in New York, too. So like I’m excited for kind of all of our clientele from around, you know, the Midwest and the, you know, Northeast a little bit to check out some of these awesome spaces. Now, I see I see you’re a it says they’re all full service venues. What is that specifically meaning compared to like what another venue might not be full.

Michele Grasser (04:37)

So, which is a really good question. So, a full service venue or what we consider for service venue is we provide an event manager. So, you have an event manager when you book and they are going to walk through all the details with you and we provide everything here in -house. So, your tables, your chairs, your staff, your bars, your bartender, your alcohol, your food. We have chefs on site as well.

Mike Sherman (04:46)
What does that mean for our listeners out there?

Michele Grasser (05:11)
versus what I like to call a different beast when you perhaps rent a space and then everything has to be brought in. So the unique thing with us is that you are absolutely welcome, for example, to hire a planner and have a planner as well. That would obviously then be able to help you with some of those outside factors that you would be doing, but it’s not necessary for you to have a planner per se. So it kind of saves you on that level as well.

And you also don’t have to think about every little detail that you need to get that. So if you select a venue where it’s just a space, I mean everything down to possibly garbage cans, napkins, every fork, every spoon. And we take care of all of that here. So you hire your officiant, your entertainment, perhaps student pianos, your photographer and your florist, and we basically handle everything else.

They also, all of our clients, attend a tasting, which is not entirely unique, but what is unique about it is they get to come and they get to taste the entire menu. So we don’t say, well, what three options do you want to pick? We provide everything. So you get to try all of our wines, all of our entrees. And the other nice thing too with us being full service, it’s great because we do what we call an elevated family style dinner.

for sit down dinner events and it is family style, but everybody gets every option that you select. So the two entrees that you select, everybody gets them. You don’t have to track, well, this one wants beef, this one wants fish. There is enough for everyone to have both entree options at the table for dinner, which is really nice. That’s a big stress relief off of couples too having to track menu items. So.

Mike Sherman (07:03)
Well, and for guests. I mean, I’m a guest to every wedding we go to. I get served dinner and sometimes, you know, you pick the one and you look…

Michele Grasser (07:09)
But what was I thinking? What was I thinking four weeks ago when I picked that? Yeah. And then you’re like, can I have some of yours? Can we split? So I do find that to be just that’s just a really nice perk to be like, nobody has to pay. Everybody gets a little bit of everything. So yeah.

Mike Sherman (07:10)
I should have gone with the fish today. I know! Gosh!

Yeah, love that. Now do you do, is it exclusively weddings or do you also do, I mean do you do a lot of other types of events too, like corporate entertainment or stuff like that or is it mostly weddings?

Michele Grasser (07:32)
We do, so our bread and butter is events in general. Very heavy weddings, obviously on the weekends, and then we do corporate events during the week. So we do entertain every kind of event, essentially. So.

Mike Sherman (07:52)
And that is awesome. Now, specifically about your current venues, but also just with your general expertise, I always like to ask a little bit about, are there any trends that you’ve kind of seen recently, or even just specifically at your new venues, like something that might work really well there that maybe wouldn’t work somewhere else, or just something you’ve noticed in the last couple of years, especially even since COVID. I feel like weddings have changed so much since then, and sometimes I don’t know how or why. The one I always think is like five years ago, we did a bouquet toss at every wedding ever.

Michele Grasser (07:57)
Thank you.

Mike Sherman (08:21)
And I don’t think I’ve done one in two years at this point, maybe one time. It’s just like, it’s so crazy how it shifts like that. So.

Michele Grasser (08:28)
Well, and I think that’s exactly the point is that it is constantly shifting, it’s constantly evolving, and it’s always unique to the couple themselves. So in my experience, I’ve always said to couples, the bouquet toss, the garter dance, which you barely ever see anymore, if I can remember that, in front of everybody, everybody. And so I always say, here’s some traditional things, and…

Mike Sherman (08:47)
Oh gosh. I was always saying nothing like sticking your head up your wife’s dress in front of her dad like two minutes after you marry her. Right.

Michele Grasser (08:58)
but whatever you want to do, we can do, we don’t have to do, you don’t wanna do speeches, let’s not do speeches. Some of the trends that I’m seeing is first dance being right after introductions. And I’ve actually very much enjoyed seeing that because people are paying a little bit more attention once the introductions happen and you do your first dance right then and everyone’s kind of seated and paying attention versus honestly, when you do it after dinner,

Mike Sherman (09:12)

Michele Grasser (09:28)
People have started to get up and move, they migrate to the bar, they wanna step outside, and then you’re losing people, and now you’re ready to do those dances, and everybody’s not there. So that’s something that I’ve seen happen a lot more, and I tend to recommend, not recommend it, I just give it as an option, as a suggestion, because most people haven’t done this before, this is their first time getting married, and they don’t know what they don’t know, so that’s another thing our event managers do, is just kind of walk through, like, well, here’s the, you know.

Here’s your options, but what are you thinking about? Like what’s unique to you? Because every couple is different, every family dynamic is totally different. You know, I’ve had some that have had in the past years, more recently, you know, perhaps a parent is no longer around so they’re not there. They’re like, well, what do I do so I don’t get to do that dance? Well, no, I mean, like you can, you can. Let’s just cater it to your situation, you know?

So that’s one of the things that I actually love about events is that every event, every wedding, no two are the same, you know? So, but I think that’s one of the great things.

Mike Sherman (10:31)

That’s why I don’t get sick of it yet, because if I did the same thing every week, it would get boring after a while, and it doesn’t get boring.

Michele Grasser (10:39)
Absolutely. Cookie cutter weddings too. Like nobody, I mean nobody wants a cookie cutter wedding. Everybody wants unique things. So we do our best to do that and kind of suggest based on that couple and their scenarios because it’s always different. So.

Mike Sherman (10:57)
It was something I always tell people too. I’m like, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but like I’ve seen a thousand weddings. Like I, you know, if you want my opinion, I will give it to you for sure. Cause I’m sure I have a very strong opinion about every aspect of the choices that you make. But.

Michele Grasser (11:08)
Yeah, I, you know, we’ve been doing this for years. And like you said, we’ve seen everything like, and throughout the processes, we’ve seen everything. And so, you know, I, somebody’s gonna suggest, oh, I want to do this. And like you said, I’m not going to tell you no, unless it’s going to start a fire. Then I might say no, which I’ve had to say no to before, but you know,

Mike Sherman (11:25)
Right. Right.

No indoor fireworks, please.

Michele Grasser (11:32)
It’s like right there. So, but to say, you know, over the years, okay, this is what you want to do. Okay, so here’s what I’ve seen over the years that’s gone well when you do this. And here’s what I’ve seen that’s gone bad. So you kind of weigh those out and determine is this something that you want to do then or not, you know? For example, like a receiving line, old tradition. That’s another thing that a lot of weddings don’t do anymore, the traditional receiving line. And…

Mike Sherman (11:59)

Michele Grasser (12:00)
I always kind of say, you know, here’s what I’ve seen. Here’s some ways to do it so you don’t spend your entire night, you know, standing in line talking to people. So here’s some suggestions. And then they can determine, do I want to do this at all? Do I want to do it? But this is how I want to, you know, make sure I don’t spend two hours meeting and greeting everybody. So, cause over the years, you know, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it just go awry and then a couple ends up spending all their time doing that. So.

Mike Sherman (12:08)
standing in line talking to people. So here’s some suggestions. And then they can…


Michele Grasser (12:30)
a lot of experience over the years, you know?

Mike Sherman (12:35)
Yeah, oh for sure. And I always say for all of our non brides and grooms, you know, one thing I always say is when you go to the wedding, see the bride and groom, like it’s okay if you don’t get to talk to them too. Like, you know, I always feel bad everyone like wants their five minutes. I’m like if everyone took their five minutes at the bride, she would not get to do a single thing all night. So just have fun and then send her a Facebook message next week and say, oh my gosh, I had a great time. Like she’ll love you and appreciate you just as much, I promise.

Michele Grasser (12:56)
Yeah, and I always say in every couple, there’s one that can get out of a conversation and one that cannot get out of a conversation. Because your guests will want to talk to you, they’ve got a cocktail and they’re gonna want to talk to you and remember when you were five years old and you ran around with the napkin on your head like a bride and you know, and then there’s always one that can’t get out of that conversation. And so, on that end too, that’s a great thing with our event managers, we kind of go like, all right, we’re gonna have you move on and just kind of like pull up out of there. So, because it can hit.

Mike Sherman (13:03)



Be that buffer.

Michele Grasser (13:25)
Suck them in, yes, yes.

Mike Sherman (13:27)
Oh yeah, many times when that first dance is about to start and the groom just can’t get away from Aunt Helen. I’m just like, okay, I’m sorry, I’m gonna steal him. I’ll be the bad guy, I promise.

Michele Grasser (13:36)
I need to see how it looks. And you’re like, let’s go.

Mike Sherman (13:41)
Oh my gosh. Well, amazing. Well, I know I’m going to let you talk. We have a little special offer, I think, for people listening to our podcast, something to do with a dinner on you. Tell me a little bit about that. What are we able to offer here for anyone that mentions that they found you here? Yeah.

Michele Grasser (13:56)
Yeah, so we at all three of our locations, again, we have one in River North in Chicago. We have one in Brooklyn, located in Williamsburg in New York. And then in DC, we are located in the Capitol Riverfront. And each one of ours has a tasting room and a restaurant along with it. So what we are currently offering is anybody who listens to this podcast.

Mike Sherman (14:00)
We have one in Brooklyn, located in Williamsburg.

in DC, we are located in the capital river.

in a restaurant.

currently offering is anybody who listens to this podcast.

Michele Grasser (14:22)
And first of all, you can reach out to me directly. My personal contact information will be listed. Reach out to me. I will connect you with the venue to get you set up for a personal private tour where you can ask as many questions as you want on wedding planning, weddings, everything. If you do select one of our venues and book, you will be given a $200 gift certificate, for lack of a better term, to have dinner on us at our…

Mike Sherman (14:24)
My personal contact information.

I will connect you with the venue to sit down.

Michele Grasser (14:51)
at one of our restaurants. And not only that, if you book a wedding with us, you do get to become members of our wine club as well and get the perks that come with it too. I know, right? And get that perk as well. So we are very proud of our locations. We are very proud of our wine. It’s amazing. And the food is phenomenal too. And the menus at all three locations are different too. So there is nothing cookie cutter either about our three locations except our service, really. So.

Mike Sherman (14:58)


Michele Grasser (15:21)
The menu changes seasonally too, so what you would have this week is not what you’re gonna have in three months when you go into one of our restaurants. So anybody who is looking to book or you’re engaged now, maybe you don’t know where to start, I’m happy to talk you through any of it. I love talking about weddings events. It is my passion, my love, and I love being able to kind of educate people and kind of point them in the right direction, but our venues are a great place to start. So.

Mike Sherman (15:50)
Awesome. Yeah, and I see that too. I mean, just in working with you, it’s like you always are smiling. You always like seem like you genuinely enjoy being there, which I cannot say is always the case for most people. I don’t want to say most, but a lot of people at a lot of venues that I work at, you know, you can tell they’re don’t really want to be there, but I never get that vibe from you. So maybe fake it really well, but otherwise, you know, just just one more little. Yeah, go ahead.

Michele Grasser (16:06)
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I was talking to you. Oh, I was just saying, we had parents that stopped in that didn’t get to come tour with their kids that were touring and going to select this venue possibly. And they luckily happened to run into me and I was like, oh my gosh, let me show you. Let me take you upstairs and show you. And I just love that. So I love talking about anything with weddings and events. So.

Mike Sherman (16:24)

That’s amazing, great. And just one more little plug for Michele. I just was stalking her LinkedIn a little bit. Just a couple little shout outs from people that have, I’m not gonna say names or places, but these are some of the things that I’ve said. Michele might be the best hire I’ve ever made. Michele’s one of the hardest working sales professionals I’ve ever worked with. Her passion and commitment to her clients is unparalleled. I mean, it speaks for itself, working with Michele, working with these amazing venues. Definitely reach out to her. Yeah, we’ll have all of her info up above or below or somewhere like that, just in case you have nothing like that.

Michele Grasser (16:52)
Thank you.

Mike Sherman (17:00)
I will at least give you her email right now. So at the very least, if you’re just listening and you need some way to get in touch with Michele, that’s how you can find her. Check out all three of the venues depending on where you’re coming in from. I mean, yeah, I mean, I think anything else you want to add before we send everyone on their their merry ways?

Michele Grasser (17:01)


No, just, you know, if you’re just starting out at the planning process, take it in one step at a time. Do not get overwhelmed. You know, there is no such thing as a stupid question because again, you’ve never done this before. So I am happy to talk to anyone again, you know, anything you just want to talk about when it comes to the planning process and where to start. I’m available and I’m open to conversation. So enjoy the process.

Mike Sherman (17:47)
Great, awesome. Well, once again, yeah, exactly. And I mean, what I always say is enjoy it by, like, I mean, get your venue right away. Like, that’s my thought too. It’s like those dates book up, you know, especially these awesome venues like this, you know, get the venue and then like, get everything else. Get your music, get your photographer, get your floor, like fill in the blanks then, but you know, take your time. You know, I always feel so stressed when someone reaches out and they’re like, oh, we’re getting married in six months. I’m like, okay, that’s doable. But like, you know, it’s like, when they’re like, we’re getting married next year. I’m like, great.

Michele Grasser (17:58)
Take care.



Mike Sherman (18:15)
This is going to be a nice fun process for you.

Michele Grasser (18:17)
Yeah, you can do the short term 100 % and you just pick and you go. You just do that. Yeah, and the wedding planning process, I mean it is stressful. I just tell people too, it’s going to be stressful. But I know that wherever I am at, that’s not gonna come from us. So picking your venue is the biggest, that’s the biggest decision you’re gonna make and once you make that, you know.

Mike Sherman (18:21)
Totally. I’ve seen them in a month. It’s like, yeah, easy. But…

Michele Grasser (18:45)
Again, you want to be somewhere that you feel good about booking and that you can enjoy the process because it’s going to be, it’ll be stressful over the next, you know, couple of months or year, however long planning, but if your venue is anything like ours, it’s going to be an enjoyable ride. So.

Mike Sherman (19:01)
And it sounds like booking with you just by making that decision they’re already eliminating a lot of the other decisions they’re gonna have to make to and just make it really simple for them so they speak from experience that is a smart thing to do for sure. All right awesome well Michele thank you so much once again everyone this is Michele Grasser so great to chat with you spend a little time with you yes of course and everyone else have a wonderful day once again this is Mike Sherman with Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Michele Grasser (19:11)

Thank you for having me.

Mike Sherman (19:26)
hanging out with you on our podcast, Eventful Endeavors. Have a great day and until I see you next time, bye.

This interview was made possible by Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos

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