By The Weekender
The partners behind Jester Auto Museum and Event Center in rural Chehalis weren’t exactly sure what to expect when they opened for business late last year.
As it turns out, the allure of dozens of immaculate classic vehicles and the capacity for 300 people at a time has made for one of the most popular event locations in the region.
“It has been a successful year,” said Rogette Hubbert, who manages the facility that is owned by her husband Ralph Hubbert and the museum’s namesake Don Jester, a car collector from Cathlamet who opened the facility partly because he was running out of room for his vehicles.
Located at 321 Hamilton Road west of Interstate 5, the museum and events center hosts galas, corporate events, weddings and, surprisingly according to Rogette, several celebrations of life.
She said the large capacity for visitors of the private museum is one of the qualities that helps it stand out.
“There’s no place in our town that will hold that,” she said of the 300-person occupancy limit.
Most recently, she estimates the facility saw more than 400 people file through for an open house Saturday, Dec. 1, as part of an informal fundraiser for the United Way of Lewis County.
The event raised $1,174 for the nonprofit, but beyond that it functioned as an opportunity for those aching to get a look inside the facility to do just that.
“We’ve had a lot of people who want to come see it,” Rogette said.
Whether it’s a phone call or a message on social media, Rogette says she receives frequent requests to open up the museum outside of special events. That, she said, would decrease the exclusivity of the museum and perhaps lead to a reduction in bookings, which cost up to $4,000 for the event center and another $500 for the car museum to be used during or after an event.
The steep price tag hasn’t kept away any business.
Providence has held its annual gala at the center twice while other organizations such as Pope’s Kids Place, the United Way, the Chehalis Foundation, The Chronicle’s Athlete of the Year and the Lewis Economic Development Council have also utilized the space in its first year.
“One great thing is that all the tax money has stayed here in Lewis County,” said Rogette, who noted leaders of the organizations holding fundraising events have noticed an uptick in yields when using the Jester Auto Museum and Events Center.
The museum portion of the sprawling building includes about 45 vehicles, with another building behind the center holding overflow as the center has access to about 75 vehicles.
Rogette said the classic cars are frequently moved in and out and rearranged to keep things fresh. New vehicles are also rolling in somewhat regularly, with two of the newest additions being a 1948 Ford Anglia and a 1954 Plymouth. It’s an eclectic collection of vehicles that includes new and old models, and it’s not relegated to only cars.
There are also boats, motorcycles and a plane that hangs from the rafters as a backdrop for events.
Rogette says she enjoys seeing visitors find so much joy in perusing the vehicles and discussing their favorites.
“Everyone has a different opinion of their favorite car,” she said. “It’s not necessarily the most expensive car, but maybe one that they remember and like to see and reminisce.”
With so much success in its first year, the owners have already invested more money into the facility.
Recently, they spent $20,000 installing new acoustic panels in the events space after receiving feedback from users who initially found the sound to be somewhat problematic during large events.
Meanwhile, Rogette said a grassy area outside the facility might be turned into an outdoor events center in the future.
Rogette said there are still open dates for those looking to rent Jester Auto Museum and Events Center. All in all, she said the first year of business has been a great success.
“We’ve done a lot in a year,” Rogette said.
About the Jester Auto Museum and Event Center
Location: 321 Hamilton Road, Chehalis
Event Center: The center includes 35 round tables, 15 rectangular tables, eight pub tables, 300 white chairs, two portable bars, a sound system with two cordless mics, four 70-inch televisions, a large catering room and bride and groom suites. The cost is $4,000 on weekends and an additional $500 for 1-hour use of the car museum.