The Manor: Blythewood’s Crown Jewel

Steve Hasterok, right, Director of Conference Center and Events, and Johna Sutton, Assistant Manager of Doko Manor, display plaques designating The Manor as the winner of Wedding Wire’s Couple’s Choice award for the last two years.

BLYTHEWOOD – The Manor at Doko Meadows, once referred to as Blythewood’s “Undiscovered Jewel,” is indeed a jewel, but it’s been discovered.  

Completed in 2013, construction of the Manor had been opposed by many who felt it was an extravagant expense at that time. Nestled in the 22-acre Doko Meadows Park, it is today a popular setting for weddings, family reunions, graduation parties, bridal and baby showers, candidate forums, town meetings and other community events.

When the then-Town Council first proposed the concept of the Manor and Doko Meadows Park, many thought a small town like Blythewood shouldn’t be undertaking such an expensive, expansive venture.

And because it lacked professional management for almost a year after it opened, the Manor suffered steep financial losses early on, causing town council, at one point, to question whether the facility had become too expensive to operate.   

In 2014, a new fulltime director, Booth Chilcott, began to move the Manor toward the purpose for which it was intended, as a revenue producing event venue. After Chilcott’s retirement in 2015, Steve Hasterok, took over as the Manor’s Director of Events and, under Hasterok, the Manor has blossomed into a busy venue that draws clients from as far away as New England and Chicago.

Today, the building hosts 16 to 20 events per month and comes close to being self-supporting financially, Hasterok said, noting that in FY 2019 the facility hosted 151 paid events.

An Ambitious Plan

The plan for Doko Manor was quite ambitious. The floor plan is large – totaling about 5,000 square feet – but designed with enough flexibility to accommodate both large and small groups and a variety of activities.

Visitors are first greeted by the high ceiling of the 700-square foot lobby crowned with a brilliant one-of-a-kind chandelier featuring hand-blown glass leaves made especially for the Manor.

The 3,400 square-foot ballroom can be arranged and decorated for a fancy black-tie event one day, then filled with row after row of folding chairs for a large corporate meeting the next day.

Hasterok said the ballroom is rented often because it can be adjusted to meet the needs of clients. By moving the partitions, it can be divided in half for two rooms, then divided in half again to accommodate small groups.

“We can have three or four meetings at one time,” Hasterok said.

A separate small meeting room across from the ballroom is also available.

But it’s weddings that pay the bills.

“We host 40 to 60 weddings a year,” Hasterok said, adding that not long ago the staff hosted two ceremonies in one day. The Manor has booked wedding parties as large as 260 people. One bride recently brought along her wedding designer from New York City.

The small lake behind the Manor is an especially big draw for wedding parties.

“People really like to get married outside,” Hasterok said. “They like to be by the water. Some couples have been married right on the dock.” 

Instead of a full-service kitchen, the Manor offers a catering kitchen with warming ovens, microwaves and other equipment which is more accommodating for the kinds of events held there.

Brings Business to Town

The Manor not only brings a revenue stream to the town government, its influence is felt around the community as the staff promotes Blythewood businesses to their clients.

“People who use the Manor also use Blythewood’s restaurants, gas stations, food catering businesses, and flower shops,” Hasterok said. Out-of-town guests have the added convenience of staying in very nice local hotels.

Doko Meadow’s Park’s serene setting is also a draw for events held at the Manor. The park features a popular playground that kids love, as well as a walking trail and wide open spaces where visitors can unwind.

Hasterok said he advertises the Manor constantly with the local newspapers and in Columbia bridal magazines.

The Manor’s online presence includes a website, Facebook page and Instagram.

“We have a large profile on Wedding Wire, an online wedding portal, and we exhibit at two or three bridal shows a year at the Columbia Convention Center,” Hasterok said. He and his staff frequently provide tours of the Manor for prospective clients.

Service Sells

And if weddings are the Manor’s number one money maker, service is its number one product. Hasterok is quick to give his staff the credit, saying their service and eagerness to accommodate clients sell the Manor.

“If people like the venue and get good service, they recommend us, and we get repeat customers.”

In addition to Hasterok, the Manor has one other fulltime employee, Johna Sutton and 12 part-time employees. They not only maintain the property, but set up and tear down tables and chairs and get the facility ready for whatever events are booked that day.

They also work with decorators to design room layouts, with wedding planners and DJs, providing whatever their clients need to make their events successful.

“Plus, our staff works hard during the events to make sure things run smoothly. 

“We have high standards,” Hasterok said, adding that he feels his staff’s customer service goes beyond what other venues offer.

“Our philosophy is this, after clients hold one event here, we hope they will consider us for future events,” Hasterok said. “Let’s say they get married here and they have a wonderful experience. Later, maybe they’ll have a baby shower here or a parent’s retirement party.”

The Manor at Doko Meadows is located at 100 Alvina Hagood Circle, Blythewood. To book an event, contact Steve Hasterok at 803-724-6305 or email him at [email protected]

Barbara Ball contributed to this story.