In 1988, when Richard and Jody Wimer were newlyweds, they'd drive past Willow Brook Farm on Route 956.

Jody would announce to her husband, "One day, I'm going to live there," Richard recalls.

"Now, 29 years later, we're on the verge of getting our wish," he said.

The couple, who now do business as JPC Events Group, are anticipating purchasing the 55-acre Wilmington Township farm, providing that the supervisors amend the zoning ordinance to allow them to operate a wedding barn at The Farm at Willowbrook. Wimer anticipates continuing his career as a "professional party-goer."

Their events-planning business took root in 1998 when they purchased The Village Inn in Harlansburg. Following the closing of several area bakeries, Jody began a celebration cakes business, making specialty confections for weddings and other events.

"That got us access to several venues," Richard recalls. "People asked us about our business and if we did catering. Jody told them we did and we were off from there."

Wimer, raised in Harlansburg and a graduate of Laurel High School, said venues began welcoming them and "as they liked what they saw, we did more."

That, he said, burst their restaurant business as catering jobs grew.

In July 2007, he said, they closed the restaurant to devote more energy to catering. "We were just too busy," he said.

The couple still owns the restaurant property, which now serves as their home corporate office. They have since opened a satellite office in Pittsburgh.

The couple now manages Rustic Acres Farm in Volant, serves as exclusive caterer at Stoneridge Nursery near Freedom and caters at Buhl Mansion in Sharon, Oak Lodge in Ligonier, Pa., the Pittsburgh Opera, and caters weddings and formal events at the Hyatt House in Pittsburgh and Bloomfield.

In 2011 and 2016, they were named East Coast Caterers of the year by Catersource.

Wimer said he met his wife, an English graduate of Westminster College, at a church event in New Wilmington.

"Living here in the early years of our marriage, we'd ride past the property which Jody always admired," he said. "Now, it's up for sale and we're in the right place to do something."

The two, he said, are prepared to spend about $700,000 for the property, currently owned by Thomas Shumaker. The property, although well maintained, will take considerable work to modernize to prepare for them to move in by this fall if things go to plan, he said. But the sale is contingent on a zoning ordinance amendment by Wilmington Township that will permit a wedding barn and events venue to operate in an agricultural district of the township.

They also anticipate spending about $1 million to renovate the barn to the side of the house.

"We'll insulate it, install heat and air conditioning. It will be a year around venue," he said. He said he anticipates holding about 80 weddings per year at the barn.

"We do 40 to 45 weddings at Rustic acres from mid-May to mid-November," he said.

He said most clients have roots in the area, "but 80 to 90 percent of our brides are from Pittsburgh, Erie, New York and West Virginia," he said. "But we have a lot of destination weddings here. Weddings here are extremely affordable."

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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Nancy Lowry is a former reporter at the New Castle News, retiring Dec. 31, 2019, after many years covering government, school boards and writing feature stories.

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