Richmond, VA
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Our interview with Dave Kreiner

Issue 101
Brick House

Dave Kreiner
A mobile DJ and his wedding coordinator wife live out a dream in a country mansion

Martin Ramirez started his DJ career in 1983, playing at high school parties and eventually promoting and throwing his own parties. His first paying job was in 1985 at age 18, a wedding for a friend for $100 and free food. It was easy money.

After working for several DJ companies in Southern California, he started A Night to Remember DJ Entertainment in January of 1997, and began performing as a full time DJ. In 1999 his wife Paula took a state-certified wedding course and joined the business to provide bridal coordination services for Martin’s clients. Soon the idea of moving to an area with a calmer pace of life and opening up their own wedding facility was born.

In January 2002, Martin, Paula and their children Aaron and Hailey traveled for two months through 28 states in search of the ideal place for their wedding facility. Out of five “finalists,” Virginia was initially 5th on their list, but moved to the top after they fell in love with its charms.

By January 2003, Martin and his family had moved to Williamsburg, Virginia and had started looking for the perfect place to host weddings. Martin became a digital DJ to facilitate performing on both the East and West Coasts. His friend, Robert Mendoza, maintains an identical system, enabling Martin to perform in California.

After spending a year and a half searching, Paula found out about a mansion that was being sold at auction in Richmond. She took a look, and told Martin that it would be perfect for weddings. Not thinking they could have the winning bid, only Paula attended the April 1, 2004 auction. Ten minutes after the auction started, Paula called Martin to let him know it was down to her and another bidder. A second call announced that the mansion was theirs.

“What is this place?” That was the first reaction Martin and the kids had when they drove up the road to meet Paula and laid eyes on the mansion for the first time. It was a 7,000-square-foot mansion, three cottages ranging from 1,000 to 1,200 square feet, a carriage house, and a large pond, which to the Ramirez family seemed like a lake. It was also filled with history. Mankin Mansion is on the state and national registries of historic landmarks for its architecture and history. The original owner, Edward T. Mankin, was a famous southern brick maker, specializing in hand-made, custom bricks. He began building the home in 1903 and completed it in 1924. It was a montage of the various types of bricks he could make. The mansion and property are filled with brick walkways, benches, pergola, and a brick living room. Mankin’s bricks are in places like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, Yale University, and many prominent homes in Virginia. John D. Rockefeller visited the home and decided on Mankin’s bricks for the revitalization of Colonial Williamsburg.

The mansion was in terrible disrepair. All kinds of renovations had to be done just to make it livable. A year after the sale, on April 1, 2006, the doors opened to Historic Mankin Mansion Wedding Resort / Bed and Breakfast. It is a place where the bride and groom get to enjoy their special event for the whole weekend. They have their own bridal suite to enjoy, as well as utilizing the mansion and grounds from the typical Friday evening rehearsal through Sunday afternoon. Thirty guests of the bride and groom can stay in the suites and cottages on the premises. We can accommodate events up to 300 guests. The bride and groom can get married in the formal English gardens surrounded by lush landscaping and fountains. The guests staying at the mansion are treated to a brunch Saturday and Sunday morning and a host of other amenities including massages, and a game room for the groomsmen to hang out in. During the week, the mansion will operate as a bed and breakfast. The Mansion has been featured in R home and Style Weekly magazines as well as Good Morning Richmond weekend.

Paula, with the help of Laura Ricker (event planning director), coordinates events, while Martin gets to enjoy not having to travel with his DJ gear. While currently running a pair of mobile setups (see below), a permanent, zoned system is being installed, including four Bose speakers in the Grand Rockefeller Room, and four outdoor Bose speakers in the garden areas, all controlled through a PC with PCDJ software and powered by a QSC RMX-850 amp system.

Although the Mansion has taken up most of Martin’s time, he is still loyal to his DJ roots. In May of 2005, Martin helped establish the South East Virginia chapter of the American Disc Jockey Association and is currently treasurer. It continues to grow and help DJs in the area improve their skills and their incomes.

Martin’s dream of owning his own wedding facility has become a reality. He feels very blessed to be the host for a couple’s most special day…and then to be able to walk across the yard and go to bed.

Mobile Beat: Now that you own this fine property, do you still maintain your DJ schedule around town as well as at your property?

Martin Ramirez: I have stopped advertising as a DJ. I still have about 15 mobile events in Virginia and a couple in California for 2006. I am leaving my dates open for the mansion. I also have a Friday night Karaoke job in Williamsburg.

MB: Besides the new setup at the Mansion, what other equipment do you use?

MR: Right now we use a 40' x 80' tent, so the system is set and removed after each event. Our eventual plan is to have a permanent pavilion or enclosed reception hall where the system can then stay in place at all times. I have two complete systems and various other components. The systems are pretty much identical. Each System contains: Two Mackie 450 powered speakers; Toshiba laptop (40GB) with PCDJ FX and the Karaoke plug-in; 200 GB external hard drive; 60 GB iPod—just in case; American Audio mixer; Shure wireless mic; American DJ SC-8 light controller; a 15" powered Mackie sub for certain events; a combination of all speakers for proms and such; about 20 lights, including 2 Pocket Scans, 1 American DJ laser effect, 1 Raptor, 2 American DJ strobe lights, 1 Star Ball II, 2 Trans Wheels, 1 Vertigo, 1 Mini Gressor II, and various others.

MB: Are the laptops used in all the different rooms of the Mansion?

MR: One laptop is used for the reception area in the tent and one for the ceremony area.

MB: Do you use CD players as well?

MR: I still have a Denon MKIII that I used before I went all-digital that will be placed permanently in the reception area. I still subscribe to The Source for my CDs—you never know when I will still need the CD player.

MB: How do you advertise?

MR: We advertised in three bridal shows in January, Our website is due to be up by mid-April, we are hosting our own bridal show with our preferred vendors and we are looking to do radio and newspaper advertisements as well. We are also listed in The Wedding Guide and Premier Bride local publications.

MB: What is in your future?

MR: Our goal is to offer in-house catering within two years, and offer a full in-house package so the bride and groom book with us and everything is provided for them. A few years down the road, we are thinking of converting the whole mansion into an inn. Currently we live in part of the house.

MB: Do you have other DJ staff?

MR: I do have a couple of DJs who work with me and take care of my California monthly accounts such as middle schools, corporate events, etc. I am looking to hire someone next year for the mansion—a DJ who would allow me to mainly emcee the event. But I love being able to do the mixing and get the crowd going. So for now, it's all on me.