The Kato Entertainment Center has been owned by James Cordes' family for 30 years. But his wife, Tania, had only been to the ballroom once.
The Cordeses, married almost 18 years, lived in Chicago for years and spent the last five years in Connecticut. James' parents, Mary Jo and David Cordes, have been serving as silent partners to David's sister, Janet Sell, who has been running the ballroom in Mankato for decades.
Yet despite being so removed from the business, it took just one conversation over Thanksgiving 2012 about the news that Sell wanted to retire for Tania to jump in and say, “I would love to run the ballroom.”
“For the last 10-12 years I have been on multiple nonprofit boards. … I've done a lot of big fundraisers. I've worked in all aspects of event planning,” Tania said. “It's always been something I really wanted to do. This, to me, just seemed like a really great opportunity.”
In May, Tania, James and their four children came to Mankato to see the ballroom again, and Tania said it was like seeing it for the first time because it had been so long.
“I said, 'I think I can do this. It needs some love and care, but I think there is some big potential for the ballroom to reinvigorate itself,” she said.
The Cordes family moved to North Mankato in August, and they've been busy putting a great deal of work into the venue known locally as the Kato Ballroom, even before taking over ownership Jan. 1. The bars, bathrooms and entryway have been renovated, and Tania soon will focus on the ballroom area itself to update the look with some fresh paint.
“I'm trying, No. 1, to take the look of the ballroom back to Art Deco and keep the retro, but upgrade it so it looks like a hipper version of the '40s and '50s,” she said. “You're going to feel like, hopefully, that this is a hip place.”