Transplanted to Concord, NC, thirteen years ago from Florida, Howard and Michelle Hitchcock began traveling to Mint Hill more frequently when Publix opened a few years ago and were thrilled with everything the small town had to offer. Regulars at Vintner’s Hill since it first opened, The Hitchcocks officially took ownership of the coffee and wine bar in June.
“We both love coffee, and we both love wine!” says Howard. “She’s probably a little more passionate about the coffee side of things; I’m a little more passionate about the wine side of things.”
Taking ownership of Vintner’s Hill offers Howard, longtime CEO of Lionel Trains, an opportunity to strike out on his own. “I’ve achieved success in business working for somebody,” says Howard, who plans to continue his “day job.” “When you work as hard as you do, you kind of want to see how you can do something on your own. For us, the idea of combining some of our passions – coffee and wine and food and friends – into a business that we felt like we knew a little bit, it seemed like a great opportunity to dip your toe in and try it.”
But it also represents an opportunity for Michelle to re-enter the workforce after many years home with her children, now fifteen and thirteen. During her time at home with her children, Michelle took on a great deal of volunteer work with her children’s schools and Autism Speaks, and she hopes to bring this experience to bear at Vintner’s Hill.
“I’ll be working more of the day to day,” says Michelle. “We have the manager here, Colleen who is staying, she does a wonderful job. I’m going to work a little more on the marketing, community involvement and outreach stuff.”
Longtime, loyal customers of Vintner’s Hill need not fear the change in ownership. “The theme of the restaurant, the core of the menu, remains unchanged,” says Howard. “The favorites are going to stay, the wines by the glass, Wednesday half price flight night. The fabric of what makes Vintner’s Vintner’s is staying.”
In addition to favorite by-the-glass choices and Half Price Flight Night, Michelle and Howard plan to continue many of the events that people have come to love at Vintner’s. There will still be tasting and pairing events. Live music on Fridays will continue. Local authors will still visit every couple of months.
“When we sat here and looked at this business, there’s a lot of great stuff about it, a lot of stuff we have no intention of altering or changing,” says Howard, “but there are some things we think from our experience that we can add to it that will help make it a little more successful.”
One of the biggest changes Howard and Michelle plan to make at Vintner’s is installing a wine sampling machine. Customers will be able to use a preloaded card to purchase one, three or six-ounce pours of a rotating selection of wines.
“What that gives you the ability to do is open up wines that you may not normally be able to do by the glass,” says Howard. “People buy what they know, so wines by the glass, we sell more of those bottles than any other bottle in this place. They’re great wines, but there are other great wines on the shelves that a lot of people aren’t willing to venture out and try.”
The Hitchcocks plan to use the wine sampling machine to offer everything from bottles they sell that customers may not be familiar with to selections from featured winemakers. “One week it might be a tour of Italy, the next week might be guest favorites,” says Howard. “Every week it allows us to rotate a different story and have a reason for people to come back and visit us to try something new and to maybe find a new favorite. You never know what you don’t know until you try it!”
While the Hitchcocks promise your favorite dishes aren’t leaving the menu, they do have some tweaks in mind. “We want to put a focus on breakfast and lunch,” says Howard, noting that they have an opportunity to serve both the expanding number of businessmen and women who work in downtown Mint Hill and the “work from home” crowd who frequents Vintner’s Hill during the day. They plan to expand the breakfast menu beyond muffins and bagels to include perhaps a quiche of the day.
When asked what’s the best part about owning a small business in Mint Hill, Michelle and Howard don’t hesitate: the people. “I really like the people,” says Michelle. “Everyone has been so friendly.” “Very welcoming, very encouraging,” adds Howard.
Follow Vintner’s Hill on Facebook and Instagram for the most up-to-date news on what’s happening at the local coffee and wine bar. Be on the lookout for information about their grand opening planned for later in the fall. In the meantime, keep up with wine and entertainment news with Michelle’s column right here in the Mint Hill Times.