History and elegance meet in North Little Rock’s well-kept venue, LaVada’s. Owned by Ernie and Kay Alonzo, it serves an array of customers seeking to provide space for weddings, receptions, corporate conferences, workshops, holiday events, ect. The venue consists of one original building called the “Old House” that was built in 1913 and a new building behind it that was completed in 2009. Since business kicked off it has become obvious that she and her husband Ernie have succeeded in molding antique with new in a way that has kept visitors pondering over the age of the building.
Before LaVada’s came into existence, the Old House was known as the “Kaczka House.” Stanislaus J. and Angela Kaczka who built and raised eight children (four daughters: Carolyn, Angela, Wanda, Maria; four sons: August, Ferdinand, Louis, Joseph) which were the only family to ever reside there. Maria Kaczka Bargiel, the last surviving daughter, who sold the house to Ernie and Kay, was reluctant to sell it after her last sister residing in the home passed away. The Alonzos had a weakness for historical houses and promised Maria to take good care of the home. Once the Alonzos convinced Maria and assured her they would preserve it to the best of their ability and the home was theirs. The Alonzos renovated the old North Little Rock Railroad Depot in addition to many other buildings in down town Argenta.
Upon purchasing the house, it became evident that some changes would have to be made. Holly bushes had grown into huge trees and carved out the wood on the outside of the house every time the wind blew. Thus, the trees had to be cut down, peeling wallpaper scraped, fresh paint applied to the plaster, and all wood cleaned. There were and still are four bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs and cedar beaded-board closets. The house is solid. Rumor has it that the Kaczkas were part-owners in a lumber company, which, if true, could explain the sturdiness of the house.
While revamping the Old House was a success, Ernie and Kay quickly realized they would need more space in order to hold larger events and still preserve the property. They credit the opportunity to expand LaVada’s to “having good neighbors.” Once they expressed interest in expanding their business, it became obvious that the city would not approve if they did not have adequate parking. Without the church parking area beside their property, their parking would have been considered too limited to pursue the idea. They contacted Reverend D.L. Richardson and the deacons of First Baptist Church, about the issue they were facing, and they couldn’t have been any kinder. To their surprise, they had no trouble securing their approval to use the parking lot when needed. In fact, shortly after their request, Rev. D.L. Richardson and the deacons of the church spoke with the city planning commission and conveyed that the Alonzos could use their parking space whenever they needed to.
Once space was cleared for construction, it was designed and built in respect to the old Victorian style of the Old House, both architecturally and decorative-wise. The roof pitches were matched to the 1913 home as were the 1875 hand milled boards placed on the outer walls of the house. The windows were custom made with black sashes that is one of the defining characteristics of the old home.
Good neighbors weren’t the only people who helped make the Alonzos business a success. Family played a big part as well. She named the business LaVada’s to honor her grandmother, LaVada Johnson, also known as “Big Momma.” She was a woman who “didn’t fit the pattern” and lived life to the fullest. She was ninety-three when she passed away. Brenda Lynn Strebeck, Kay’s daughter, passed away in 2001, and Kay named the ballroom, Brenda’s Ballroom in her honor. During the time that Ernie was building the new addition, his mother, Heddie Caudillo, passed and hence, the reception upstairs area was named “Heddie’s Reception Room.” “Momma Fay’s Kitchen” was named after Kay’s mother, Verna Fay Johnson, as she was the best cook in the family. Fay once joked about how thrilled she was to actually be a part of the business while she was still alive and has since passed in June of 2012.
Togetherness, fun, and humor seem to be ingredients for success in Kay’s book. She’s an amazing woman who works hard to provide all the services needed to hold superb events. Whether a family birthday, boss’ retirement party, sister’s wedding, or corporate retreat, LaVada’s can personalize any event to fulfill clients’ needs.