Katherine Corn of Asheville Event Centre Always Thinking What She Can Do Next
By Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Katherine (Kathy) Haden Corn has spent most of her adult life creating and expanding one business after another. She and late husband, Bob Corn, started the well-known classified advertising publication, IWANNA, in a one-room office on Biltmore Avenue in 1976, using an old VW Beetle to make those first deliveries.
In 1998 they needed to expand and moved into a new 40,000 square foot building on Sweeten Creek Road. Kathy designed the building to accommodate the growth of a staff then numbering over 50, plus a full printing department.
That business continued to grow with a new IWANNA in Hickory, NC, in 1980 and another in Greenville, SC, around 1988. For over 30 years, the publication supported many employees and non-profit organizations in the region. She and Bob contributed to many fundraising events for the American Heart Association, Walk for Cancer, the Salvation Army, the Eblen Foundation, Manna Food Bank, and so many more. They received an award from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol for community service.
In addition to those organizations, as part of their community involvement, they supported the WNC Sports Banquet, and they gave a yearly trophy in honor of Bob Waters, the former Western North Carolina University football coach who later died from ALS (aka, Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Kathy was always a vital part of the business. At the same time, she raised a family of three daughters (Debbie McCart, Valerie Hudson, and Robin Graham) that now includes six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Debbie is now Vice President and Business Manager, and assists in overseeing the day-to-day operations.
Sadly, Bob died in August of 2000. He had served in Viet Nam and several overseas bases, then retired after 22 years in the Air Force as an expert on the gunship engine. Kathy says she received a love letter every day for over a year telling her how much he cared for and missed her. His untimely death at age 65 left her facing changes in her personal life as well as the business. Eventually Kathy sold the business, including the woman’s magazine, Sophie, to the Fayetteville
Kathy believes the lessons about kindness, hard work, what it meant to be a woman and love the Lord that she learned from her mother, Neva Haden (who had worked as a nurse at the VA Hospital in Oteen, NC, for over 20 years), taught her that business was also a way to support and help the less fortunate.
“I went to Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, NC, then graduated from Blanton Business College in Asheville. I switched to Blanton because I just wasn’t interested in history and chemistry! I always wanted to have a business, even from a young age.”
As she says, “I’m always thinking of what I can do next.” Her leadership in business arises from a desire to provide jobs and services in her home town; she likes to stay busy and work through any loneliness she might experience.
Along the way, she discovered the second “love of her life”: dancing! As a teenager she loved to dance but later in her life she decided to take lessons to see if she still could do it. She found she could and loved it just as much as in her youth. This led to her developing a new business venture.
The Asheville Event Centre already had a large, open room. It had often been the playroom for her grandchildren where they could ride trikes and have space to run and play. As they outgrew the space, it seemed the perfect place for dance instruction. One of her instructors helped her start classes and brought in additional instructors and world class dance champions.
“I always loved decorating for dance parties, and the ballroom has become a beautiful place that brings happiness to many people.” She rents the ballroom for parties, weddings, music shows.
And now she has converted rooms formerly used for IWANNA’s production, sales, reception, etc. into party rooms for rent. As you walk into the building’s front door there is an elegant chandelier and a grand piano. There is a full kitchen with a chef to service a variety of events.
“One favorite is a bluegrass music event for tour bus guests with barbecue, fresh smoked chicken and all the fixings.” Katherine knows that dancing and music make people happier. They tell her the ballroom and the dance lessons are a gift to the community. She laughs: “We even teach people who have two left feet!”
Even as she has expanded and enjoyed the ballroom and event spaces, there was room in the building for something more. “I have not finished building my business! In the last year I’ve been converting our old press room (15,000 square feet) to a new event space. I named it The BC Centre after my late husband Bob.” She knows he would be proud of what she has accomplished as he was of what the two of them created together.
The BC Centre is available for booking corporate parties, large weddings, various shows, proms, class reunions (she’s held her own high school reunion in the Event Centre Ballroom for the past 20 years). She even has plans for an outdoor stage for weddings and parties and will have a patio with a singer, food, beer and wine.
There will be an in-house photographer (Sherry g Rambin), and in-house florist and decorator (Terry McFee Dorlan). It will be full-service, all-in-one location for elegant but affordable weddings, rehearsal parties and receptions.
The BC Centre’s promoter, Jody Medford, will present a variety of live music shows, including gospel singing. The space features wall and ceiling video screens, sound system, special lighting, a beautiful bar and elegant décor. She’s preparing to enlarge the parking area to accommodate the growth.
And, Kathy says that she will also offer sports bar events for playoff games that include food from her wonderful chef, Dean Wertz. “People can come to watch the game with other fans and cheer for their team together.” Another way Kathy and the Event Centre connect to and support their community.
Finally, in case you think Kathy is “all work and no play” there is this one more “next” on her agenda. “I have a small motor home that I hope to have time to travel to Florida in this winter. I love being able to visit with friends there. I know a time will come when I won’t be able to travel, but until then, I want to enjoy life as much as possible.”
Between work, family and friends she says, “I have been given a beautiful life . . . I am grateful.”