Entrepreneurial Spirit: Multiple generations of Head family work at Palomino Ballroom

From left, Chris and Jenny Burger, Debbie and Ray Head and Jess and Mark Strickland operate six businesses out of the Palomino Ballroom. (Photo by Feel Good Now)

By Anna Skinner

Throughout their lives, Ray and Debbie Head have been eclectic entrepreneurs. Before finding their passion in the wedding industry, the Heads owned an array of businesses, from a roller skating rink to a deli to a balloon store, among other enterprises. Their businesses have taken them from Indiana to Michigan to California.

The Head’s daughters, Jess Strickland and Jenny Burger, remember what it was like to grow up with parents possessed with an entrepreneurial spirit.

“We were raised in the roller skating rink, where we came of age, and basically we had jobs at (ages) 6 or 7 picking up trash and stuff,” Jess said. “We would get rewarded by getting to play arcade games. That’s where we basically learned the role of self-employment, really, and it’s never stopped. They have owned businesses their entire marriage, so that’s how this all started.”

The couple, which graduated from Pike High School and now lives in Westfield , missed Hoosier hospitality and returned to Indiana. That’s when they found an opportunity in the Palomino Ballroom, 481 S 1200 E, Zionsville, which they purchased 15 years ago.

The family celebrated Ray’s 50th birthday with a party, which is where their friends encouraged them to dive into the party business.

“People kept saying we threw the best parties, and people kept saying, ‘Could we throw a party for them?’ and it evolved from there,” Debbie said.

The Heads purchased the Palomino Ballroom and eventually added on property to create the 60 acres of the event venue’s current size. Multiple businesses are run out of the Palomino Ballroom: Jenny’s catering business, Palomino Catering Co.; Jess’s photography business, Jess Strickland Photography; Jenny’s husband Chris’s DJ and master of ceremonies business, Copper Moon Entertainment; and Ray’s party rental business, Central Celebration. Jess’s husband, Mark, is the only family member not working out of the Palomino, but from the Strickland’s home on the Palomino Ballroom’s property, he can see his own place of employment. He is a pilot for the Indianapolis Executive Airport.

“I think what’s so unique about this story is if you had asked any of us 20 years ago, ‘Do you think you will all end up in the wedding business and all end up on the same property?’ we all would have had a resounding, ‘No way,’” Jess said. “But we are a faith-based family, and it’s been an amazing blessing for all of us.”

“We all live here on this property, too,” Ray said. “Our property runs from County Line Road to Joliet Road. The houses back there we built ourselves.”

Jenny said having her parents and sister and brother-in-law and their children on the same property has created a family support system. Debbie’s mother also lives on the property – creating four generations in four homes, all on the same property, as the family’s business.

Residing in the gray area between two counties also serves its purpose, as the Heads are involved with the Zionsville Lions Club and the Hamilton North, Westfield and Zionsville chambers of commerce. Being on County Line Road, the Palomino Ballroom is on Westfield property but has a Zionsville address because its mailbox is across the street.

“It’s grown tremendously,” Deb said of the ballroom. “We’ve grown along right with Westfield.”

In addition to weddings, the Palomino Ballroom hosts receptions, rehearsals, bridal showers, chamber of commerce events and more. For more, visit palominoballroom.com.

The Palomino Ballroom began 15 years ago. From left, Mark and Jess Strickland, Debbie and Ray Head and Jenny and Chris Burger. (Photo by Feel Good Now)

BEHIND THE NAME

The Head family purchased the Palomino Ballroom in 2002 from Sam Fix, a local teacher. Fix had purchased the property in 2000. It was built in the early 1990s by the Shriners, which also owns the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis. The Shriners used to ride palomino horses in parades  and named the property the Palomino Ballroom.  Despite the absence of horses, the Heads liked the name and decided to keep it.

In addition to the other five family businesses, the Heads also own the Palomino Stables, renting out the horse stables on the property.