Listen to the Podcast About Shores of Turtle Creek

Podcast for Shores of Turtle Creek

Podcast Summary

On the latest episode of Eventful Endeavors, hosted by Michael Sherman, he introduced the audience to Anna Massouras-Niklarz, the venue manager of the picturesque Shores of Turtle Creek, located in Spring Grove, Illinois. Anna, with a strong background in real estate and graphic designing, also an outdoor enthusiast, has made this venue stand out in the event industry.

During the interview, she shared her journey, revealing that she didn’t deliberately choose this path but allowed life to take its course. She described her work at ‘Shores of Turtle Creek’ as a fun and rewarding endeavor, surrounded by a friendly and family-like team. She also maintains a remarkable balance between her personal and professional life with moments of solitude interlaced between lively encounters with couples visiting the venue.

What adds a delightful edge to the venue is the flexibility it offers in hosting themed weddings. From recollections of a memorable Disney-themed wedding, involving a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator and various actors, it’s clear that this venue has seen some unique celebrations. The Shores of Turtle Creek performs well on the social media front, standing as a preferred choice among couples looking for venues. All credit goes to Anna who diligently promotes the venue.

True to her affable nature and penchant for enriched experiences, she’s ensured the Shores of Turtle Creek is not merely a venue, but a destination that offers an unforgettable experience, showcasing the best of Spring Grove, Illinois.

This interview was provided by Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Podcast Transcript

Mike Sherman (00:25)
Hello everyone, welcome to another exciting episode of Eventful Endeavors. I am Mike Sherman with Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos. Happy to be hanging out with all of you one more time. Today, it is my joy and honor to be interviewing Anna Massouras-Niklarz, the venue manager at Shores of Turtle Creek, which is an absolutely beautiful venue that we’ve worked at a number of times in Spring Grove, Illinois.

Anna was born and raised in Europe. She actually had 12 years of real estate before she became a venue owner. She was trained as a graphic designer originally and she’s interested in psychology, traveling, outdoor activities. She likes fishing, snowmobiling, boating. And like I said, she runs one of the best venues that I can think of. Specifically, I can never forget how beautiful that ceremony spot is that you have out there. I mean, it’s one of the best that I’ve ever been at. So I love it. So how did I do? Is that a pretty good…

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (01:18)
Oh my goodness, marvelous, I don’t even want to follow up, you know, because it’s so amazing. But yeah, our ceremony space is definitely breathtaking. Absolutely. And yes, thank you for the beautiful introduction.

Mike Sherman (01:22)

Oh my gosh, yes, well it’s a… Oh yes, well thank you, and it’s such a joy to be chatting with you. I haven’t seen Anna in a couple years, but I’ve been definitely over at the venue a few times, as absolutely, like I said, one of my favorite spots. One wedding that I did there, I remember there was a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator at it, and I remember, yeah, it was just…

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (01:46)
Yes, that was… Oh my goodness, I think that was 2016 if I remember correctly, so it’s been a while.

Mike Sherman (01:51)
Oh my gosh, could it have really? I was gonna say that’s one that I remember. I’ve been there a couple other times too, but yeah, I remember that Captain Jack Sparrow. That was one of my favorites.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (01:57)
Yeah, that was a fun wedding. It was the bride worked for Disney. So the whole theme of the wedding was Disney. Yeah, she had fun with you guys being here and yes, a couple of different actors came out and had fun with us as well that day. That was definitely a fun one.

Mike Sherman (02:06)
Hahaha, that’s amazing.

Oh, that’s amazing. I love that. Well, so tell me a little bit. Now, obviously, I just spoke a little bit of your background in real estate and some other things. What kind of motivated you to get into the wedding industry?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (02:28)
You know, it was just something that life threw at me. It’s very difficult to explain. I think for some of us, just life unfolds and, you know, there is a path in front of you that you take and that’s kind of what happened. It wasn’t a planned out, you know, way. It wasn’t something that I really thought about doing. It just, again, just kind of unfolded and it was an opportunity that I thought, wow, how interesting.

Mike Sherman (02:42)
Yeah, I don’t know, that’s amazing.


Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (02:57)
And, you know, we’ve been having fun here since. It’s myself along with, you know, good friends and family that work the events, so we always have fun. It’s a great balance. And then during the week, I’m just kind of lonely in the office, except for couples coming in to see me once in a while. But, you know, great balance.

Mike Sherman (03:20)
Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, I wanted to comment too. I mean, I think you do such a great job with social media. Often, I mean, I see people looking for venues. I feel like I always see you up there, you know, promoting Shores of Turtle Creek. I mean, so is that just like a part of your daily routine? Like what kind of helps you like stay on top of all the other social media and the response is to brides looking for venues.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (03:39)
All right, so I’m pretty much the only person that does operations here.

I don’t feel comfortable with having support as far as admin is concerned. So yeah, I typically do the marketing and everything else on my own. Sometimes I slack because when we start getting very busy in a season and you know how that goes, you know, other things kind of fall behind. But, you know, off peak when we have more time, I definitely try to focus on it a lot more and make sure that everybody can see what’s here. I think really.

Mike Sherman (03:53)


Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (04:16)
relationships with professionals just like as yourself kind of helps. We typically see the photographers returning that have been here. So it makes my job easier because they want to share their work. You know, they’re so happy to share it and they’re like, here, go for it. So having all that beautiful photography definitely helps.

Mike Sherman (04:21)
Mm -hmm.

Oh yeah, for sure. I know and I’ve definitely tagged you all in posts over the years for sure when people are looking for a great venue and so yeah, it’s amazing. Do you do mostly Facebook stuff or do you do other things like Instagram or TikTok or anything like that?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (04:41)
Mm -hmm.

Majority of our marketing is definitely focused on Facebook and the reason why there is a whole bunch of great groups You know over time you join about 20 of them So that kind of helps that’s Facebook is awesome for that for you know Information it’s not always the best information or the most accurate when it comes from different sources But again for us wedding professional, I think it’s it’s a great place to be Instagram tick -tock I recently

Mike Sherman (05:10)
Ha ha.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (05:20)
started playing with TikTok and it’s kind of fun.

Mike Sherman (05:23)
Yeah, great. That’s amazing. No, and I love it too. I mean, just especially with like you were saying, like the relationships with vendors. I mean, there’s so many great resources out there. Even just now looking for more people to interview for our podcast. I just put a post in some of my vendor groups yesterday and I had 10 or 12 responses. Yeah. So it’s like it just, yeah, it’s great. Especially when you see people and they’re like, oh, yeah, it’s somebody yesterday that was like, oh, I worked with you at a wedding a year ago. And it’s like, oh my gosh, you know, you kind of remember people and, and get to stay friends that way. So it’s nice.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (05:37)
I saw that. Yeah.

in the.

Yeah, absolutely. You bond and you’re a team, you know, not a disconnected service that just, you know, services an event. It’s always a lot more fun.

Mike Sherman (05:53)
Mm -hmm.

Exactly. Yeah, no, we’re all working together when we come together to put together awesome events and weddings and all that fun stuff. So great. Well, talk to me a little bit about just the wedding industry. I mean, what’s going on in the industry this year? Do we any trends that are that you’re seeing a lot? Anything that’s sort of dying out that we’re not seeing as much anymore?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (06:17)
I feel like this year and last year actually we’ve seen a lot of changes. And I think currently the trends are a little unpredictable. So we’re going to see where everything is going to take us the next year. I feel like the barn venues have been trending. We hear a lot less about, you know, part of my job is doing sales visits.

Mike Sherman (06:23)

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (06:46)
So I meet a lot of couples that are searching for spaces. So I hear that there’s a lot less of them saying, well, we visited the barns or that’s on our list. I think everyone is either going into facilities that are more of package deals, because I feel like a lot of groups nowadays realize, you know,

By the time we do everything ourselves and rent all of these things and chairs and tents or bring in the catering, the budget happens to be typically doubling or tripling over what they had in mind. So I think currently the trend is returning towards more of the package deals for venues. I think a lot of people see the value in it. So, yeah.

Mike Sherman (07:37)
Oh yeah, just as far as the planning goes, just keeps it simpler and you know, it’s like you know you’re going to get things that work really well together anyways.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (07:44)
Yeah, the other fun trends, I think we’re seeing a repeated or kind of everyone wants to do something more fun, something that nobody else has done. And we’ve seen that for the past probably three to four years, kind of, you know, growing bigger and bigger. So this year we have alpacas coming to the property, which is amazing. I mean, we are sitting here on over 30 acres, so possibilities for our groups are kind of endless as far as, you know, wowing the guests with different activities.

Mike Sherman (07:58)
Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (08:14)
Of course, we do tend to have one to two firework shows here per year for weddings. You know, that we, like every year, it’s kind of a big thing. But seeing animals, you know, dogs coming for ceremonies, or again, this year having alpacas. We’ve had petting zoos for cocktail hours. So it’s kind of fun. I think, you know…

Mike Sherman (08:20)

Mm -hmm.

Ha ha.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (08:39)
Bonding more with the nature and having that type of fun is kind of the way to go nowadays. More relaxing. I like that better than jumpy houses. Like going back like seven years. That was… Yeah. Not my thing. Jumpy, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Let’s go in there and shake up a little bit. Sweat a little bit inside of those and get dizzy.

Mike Sherman (08:45)
Oh yeah. Mm -hmm.


Get a big, big ugly jumping house right outside your beautiful venue.


Yeah, well, no, and I think you really hit it on the nail. It’s like everyone wants their wedding to be different, you know, especially in the age of social media and TikTok and Pinterest. It’s like you see hundreds of different things and you think what can I do that’s different than what everyone else has done? And and I mean, I’ve had people recently where they’re just like, well, this is a tradition that we do. This is a tradition. And we don’t want to do any of those. Like we don’t want the traditions that my mom did at her wedding or that my cousins did at her wedding because we’re sick of them and we just want something different. So, you know, sometimes it might, you know.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (09:22)


Mike Sherman (09:36)
make mom a little upset, but you know, people, yeah, they want that unique experience and really at the end of the day, it’s like people just remember how much fun they had. They remember the experience and little traditions here and there. It’s like they’re not gonna know anything about that.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (09:39)
Mm -hmm.

Oh, absolutely.

Yeah, they’re not going, nobody is going to remember we didn’t cut a cake.

Mike Sherman (09:53)

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (09:54)
But they do remember great music and I feel like you guys are awesome, your group is amazing because and that’s something that has been actually coming up in a lot of visits that I had, do you allow live music? A lot more people nowadays are asking about having live music at their events. You know, if it’s just for ceremony or the whole event. So yeah, I’m definitely hoping to see you more because it’s more fun.

Mike Sherman (10:07)
Mm -hmm.


Yeah, absolutely.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (10:20)
It’s very upbeat and it creates that environment where everybody feels like they’re part of the dance floor.

Mike Sherman (10:27)
Yep. Well, yeah, what I always say is, I mean, if we DJ a song, like if a DJ plays like, Baby Got Back, you know, like, I like Big Butts and, like, it’s like, whatever, you know, people kind of roll their eyes, they might dance. But like, if we do it, then suddenly there’s like this element of live performance, this level of talent that goes into it. And suddenly, if you’re six or if you’re 106, like you’re drawn to the dance floor and come out, it’s just such a whole different experience. And, mm -hmm.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (10:36)

Yeah, absolutely. I agree.

Mike Sherman (10:52)
Yeah, and that’s why it’s so great too about just about having that unique experience. I mean, like a company like ours, we do 200 weddings a year, but most people have never seen dueling pianos at a wedding before. So it’s like, we know how to do it super well, but it’s still just like an original thing to 99 % of the people that’ll be there. And that’s what it comes down to, just those memories and something different. I’m having some memories. Well, I don’t like to see that. Yeah, I know.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (11:12)
Yeah, having something different. Yeah, I agree. I was lucky to see you in action a few times. So that’s all. We love it. We absolutely love having you guys. So.

Mike Sherman (11:21)
Yeah, hopefully soon again. So now where are you right now? Is that an actual, is that like a fake backdrop behind you or is that the space itself?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (11:27)
No, no, no, I’m sitting in a space. I’m hiding, you know, we have so many beautiful skylights and windows, so I’m trying to kind of hide from that because I figured you might want to see my face. But yeah, no, I’m literally in the reception area with the fireplace in the background. Of course, not only we’re here on a Monday, but also off season, so it’s not perfect. We’re not set up for anything, so I’m not showing off the rest of it.

Mike Sherman (11:30)
Yeah, I thought so.

Uh -huh.

Yeah, it’s perfect.

That’s great.

Right. No, it’s great. I mean, really, it almost kind of looks like a fake backdrop behind you of just a beautiful, pretty room. But no, I was like, I think that’s actually her space. So.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (12:02)
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think the last time you were here you were sitting on this side, I think, somewhere.

Mike Sherman (12:06)
Yeah. Well, I feel like I’ve been on the other side maybe once, but I could also be backwards, and I’m remembering it too. What are some tips for brides and grooms that are getting started? Whether or not they’re just starting the wedding search for a venue or anything, what advice could you give to somebody that’s planning a wedding?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (12:14)
Yeah. Yeah.

tips. I mean we’ve been open for 17 years. I’ve been doing this for quite a while. So I think I’m always full of suggestions, especially to our groups.

And I feel like the biggest tip for anyone planning a wedding, especially if they don’t have any experience, right? Because if someone was standing up to a wedding five times in the past five years, they have significant amount of experience of what to do or what not to do, right? If maybe, you know, a sibling just got married and the whole family was planning and was involved, now you have definitely some significant experience. But for anyone who really

Mike Sherman (12:55)

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (13:07)
hasn’t done any of those things, I feel like my biggest suggestion and a tip would be make sure to hire the right professionals. Someone who is actually willing to help you and assist, you know, and going back to Facebook, you’re in those group chats and sometimes I see the brides asking such simple questions and it just feels like if they would hire the right professionals, they wouldn’t have to struggle and ask those questions because somebody would give them

Mike Sherman (13:34)

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (13:37)
their experience and will be willing to share that. It’s not necessarily that you have to have a day of coordinator or wedding planner. A lot of wedding professionals provide that support. I always invite, even though I always say it’s not mandatory, come in if you need to, I suggest three consultation meetings. Come in, let’s talk, let’s check in, let’s see where you are. Let me help you with that timeline.

Mike Sherman (13:40)
Mm -hmm.

Mm -hmm.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (14:07)
That’s the most important thing about your day is making sure that the timeline is on the spot. Right? Because a lot of things can go wrong if you start too early or too late. Or don’t give yourself enough time or give too much time. Right? Neither one of those things are great. So, yeah, definitely the culture of wedding industry now is so confusing because it’s changing, you know? You have not only venues but professionals that give you very

Mike Sherman (14:17)
Yeah, and if you try and… Right. Right?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (14:37)
minimal support, just say, hey, here’s the space, here’s the basic, you’re on your own with everything else. And of course you have still those very traditional spaces where you walk in and you just pick your cake, you pick your meal, you pick everything else. Here we’re somewhere in between where we want to provide that support and the help, but without pressuring everybody to have that cake.

Mike Sherman (15:05)
Mm -hmm.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (15:06)
If you want donuts, that’s absolutely fine. I’m not going to be giving you a cake if you don’t want it. And again, we always suggest hiring certain vendors, certain professionals that work with us as a team.

There is not a whole bunch of services that come in disconnected where they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re all having fun and working as a team, so our groups really benefit from that at the end. They don’t have to reach out to their vendors giving them a list after a list of information or answering questions. The professionals say, this is how it goes over there. So it kind of goes in reverse. So yeah, hiring the best wedding professional.

Mike Sherman (15:47)
Yeah, absolutely.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (15:51)
I feel like successful wedding and successful planning, that’s your base.

Mike Sherman (15:58)
Yeah, well it’s gonna just make your life easier over the course of however long the wedding planning is going for too. And I always appreciate it when people, when they trust us. A lot of people it’s like, I know what we’re doing, I will give you any advice you want. Of course anything you want we’re gonna make work for you. But so many times when we have our kind of pre -planning calls with our brides and grooms and we’re asking them questions and they’re like, well what would you do? And it’s like, that’s such a smart question because I guarantee you, I know the best way to do it. And so if you ask me I’m gonna tell you, but I’m not gonna.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (16:02)

Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Sherman (16:27)
force it on you necessarily. So, mm -hmm. That’s great. What, I mean, you, yeah.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (16:32)
Absolutely. Yeah, we…

We’ve done so many events, again, they don’t always have to be the same, but certain things work, right? And certain things don’t. Absolutely.

Mike Sherman (16:48)
Yeah, of course. Well, talk to me more about Shores of Turtle Creek. Obviously, I talked a little bit about the ceremony space. I mean, what is so amazing about Shores of Turtle Creek? What makes you different, unique? I mean, you’ve touched on a little bit of it already, but yeah, just talk it up for a minute. Like, what is it? What’s so great about it?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (17:01)
Mm -hmm.

I can tell you what I enjoy about this location. We’re extremely private. We are literally sitting on a 30 acre property. There’s nothing going on around. Most of our neighbors here are not residential. Most of them are industrial. So first of all, the number one thing, well, we’re staying open until 1 a .m.

Well, a lot of local venues around here, they have to close at 11 because there’s different ordinances. So we have more fun here. That’s number one. And again, just being kind of landing in the middle of not nowhere because everything here is.

Mike Sherman (17:32)

Yeah, that’s great.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (17:46)
around us, just the property itself is so large that you feel like you’re very private, you know, there’s less stress. Our rentals are full day, so there is so much time to spend here and set up and break down and, you know, for everything else in between. But you’re literally arriving here and you feel relaxed because you’re breathing in that fresh air. You hear the birds, you know, you hear the frogs in a background and it’s just so amazing.

We don’t have wedding crashers. Nobody would think about just walking in through the door because again, it’s just so completely private. So we all enjoy it as employees and running it and I feel like that’s the biggest plus to our groups. I love where we are because again, we’re kind of in like a very private location but we’re five minutes from Channel Lakes.

Mike Sherman (18:45)
Mm -hmm.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (18:46)
You know with amazing, you know

house rentals for the weekends. We’re 15 minutes from Lake Geneva. The same thing. You know, you can stay the weekend in Lake Geneva and just come here for the wedding in return. So I feel like the location in itself is amazing because you’re not paying the Lake Geneva cost for your wedding here. I mean, we’re probably one third of anything in Lake Geneva, if not less, right? But you’re still in the same area. So I just…

Mike Sherman (19:08)

Yeah. Mm -hmm.


Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (19:18)
I just feel very relaxed here myself. Going for a walk or anything else is amazing. That’s how I spend lunches. And I think all the guests that walk in through the door kind of feel the same way.

Mike Sherman (19:24)

Oh yeah, definitely find that easy to believe because it really does create that when you when you get there. Yeah, I mean, I remember my first time being there being like, what is this place like? It’s like I feel like we’re not where we are right now, just like in Illinois. So. Mm hmm.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (19:34)

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you’re like, wow, I didn’t know it existed. Yeah, when they call us the hidden gem, they they mean it. Because you don’t as you’re right, you don’t expect it. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (19:45)

Yeah, and you mentioned your staff and how great they are and everything. You have a note here on my list. You said something about your staff is even known to hop out on the dance floor a little bit during the weddings. Is that…

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (20:04)
Absolutely. We are honestly, we are a group of friends and family. You know, my mom still comes and works, not events, but she comes and you know, she’s that true Polish personality that likes to clean and organize everything. So, you know, we have her, you know, organizing the space quite frequently. But yeah, everybody who runs weddings with us, who comes in to serve our guests, our friends or family.

Mike Sherman (20:20)

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (20:33)
So we just come together as a group when we finish washing all the dishes, we come out and join people on a dance floor and kind of close the event with the guests and most of them really love it and appreciate it.

Mike Sherman (20:47)
That’s awesome. I love that. Well, you had shared something with me. It was a post, I think, on your Facebook page. You have some deal going on right now with a couple of the Fridays and Saturdays throughout the rest of this year. I think it was like for some of these open Fridays, you can get a Saturday for normal Friday pricing and you can get a Friday for normal Sunday pricing. Am I saying that right?

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (21:00)
Mm -hmm.

Absolutely. You are saying that right. Yes, so we do have, I believe, about four Saturdays left for this year. Probably about the same amount of Fridays. So at this point, we’re offering them at a promo pricing. So yes, on each one of those dates currently, you’re looking at probably close to a $2 ,000 discount.

Mike Sherman (21:23)

Awesome. So yeah, I know they literally posted their dates on their Facebook page, maybe Instagram too. So you can check that out or obviously reach out to Anna over at at Shores and I’m sure she’ll give you all those details as well.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (21:34)
Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.


Mike Sherman (21:43)
Well, thank you, Anna, so much for agreeing to meet me today and share with us a little bit about your amazing venue. And it’s nice to get to actually physically see it while I’m talking to you. That’s a rare thing when I do my podcast. So it’s good to actually see the space itself. Was anything else you? No, it’s good. Now I’m in my little recording. I have a little recording studio here. So it’s just, yeah, I got to…

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (21:55)
Yeah, I wasn’t going to do it from home.

Oh no, you’re good. At my home, I’m surrounded by cornfields, so I want to be able to sit there and not stress over the internet connection.

Mike Sherman (22:08)

Right, right, I know that could be a stressful part of any sort of video conference or whatnot, but. All right, awesome. Well, great, well, anything else you wanted to say or add or anything? I mean, I think we covered a lot of it. Yeah.

Anna M. Massouras Niklarz (22:18)
Right, absolutely.

No, it was just amazing chatting with you. It was amazing seeing you and hopefully I’ll see you in person soon. Summer is coming up and so is the season. So.

Mike Sherman (22:30)
Absolutely, I hope so.

Alright perfect. Well once again everyone this is Mike Sherman with Felix and Figures Dueling Pianos here on Eventful Endeavors talking about the Shores of Turtle Creek. So definitely check it out if you’re looking for a wedding or event. It’s an awesome space and everyone have a great night and we’ll talk to you later. Bye!

This interview was made possible by Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos

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