Coronavirus Chronicles: Cloth & Flame

Marilyn HawkesAugust 13, 2020
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As with so many businesses in the age of coronavirus, Arizona-based event company Cloth & Flame has had to adjust to the new normal. Since Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order prohibiting large gatherings went live, Cloth & Flame has been concentrating on smaller gatherings, including corporate events (splitting larger parties into smaller groups) and micro weddings. They specialize in “boundary pushing” custom-designed experiences in “accessible and seemingly impossible locations.” We recently spoke with owner Matt Cooley to see how Cloth & Flame has adapted.

Q: How have you had to pivot during the pandemic?
A: We’ve gotten an increasing number of phone calls and emails from people saying they’re postponing their larger celebrations for obvious reasons and want to work with a company like ours that focuses on the outdoors and designs intimate elopements or micro weddings.

Q: Are people having small weddings now and bigger celebrations later?
A: 100 percent. A lot of them are locked in with a venue, but nobody who was going to get married in August 2020 wants to get married in the spring of 2022. No one is comfortable waiting that long, so that’s where we’re stepping in and saying, “Hey, if you already have vendors in place, we’ve built a package that allows you to use them.”

Q: What are some features of a micro wedding?
A: There are about 40 unique enhancements that couples can select from – anything from florals to hold in their hand to a Mezcal tasting with Mezcal Carreño. It could be a unique arrival element, like a kayak-in experience or a horseback ride or something a little bit more toned down, but still lovely, like an astronomer and s’mores experience. We also have chefs on our team who make extraordinary meals out in the wilderness.

Q: Where are you staging these events?
A: The sort of unsexy background of Cloth & Flame is that we are a land management company. We manage venues and create venues for extraordinary spaces on pieces of land, (such as) a ranch or a nonworking ranch where a family is looking for ways to monetize their property. Often that means development or sale, but we’re a third option. We are able to create revenue for property owners, and in that way, we can scale up our available space really quickly. We’ve been adding about five sites a week.

Q: How are you keeping people safe?
A: We’re mostly outdoors so social distancing is easy and we’ve built and purchased different types of tables and seating. We’re creating family groups, so that anybody that you’ve already been spending a lot of time with, you’re able to sit with. We ask that if you have to stand (closer) to somebody who is not part of your family group, just put a mask on. Also, the staff wears gloves and high touch places are being sanitized every half hour.

Q: What’s one of the most unusual requests you’ve had?
A: We did a meal for a corporate incentive group at the base of the Grand Canyon. We spent about seven months talking with the Hualapai Nation and working with Maverick Helicopters to devise a plan that included cutting tables into thirds and flying in courses because we weren’t allowed open flames. It was bananas, but you can do anything with enough time and resources.

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