Hey, Food Network, here’s a reality show pitch for you.
Two Huntsville restauranteur couples – who are business partners with their respective significant others – swap business locations and try to make new ventures work amid a pandemic.
Call it “Lease Swap.”
Except this isn’t unscripted TV.
This is actual reality for Matt Mell and Stephanie Kennedy-Mell and Stan Stinson and Tina Thompson Ford.
The Clinton Row space that’s been home to Stinson and Ford’s Self-Serve Drinkery will soon house new Mell concept The Corner Pour.
And the Stovehouse food garden stall the Mells’ operate Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen from will transition to new Stinson/Ford eatery Parm & Pepper.
The “lease swap” idea arose from conversations the restauranteurs had with Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson and Crunkleton Properties developer Wesley Crunkleton, about COVID-19 era challenges they’ve been facing.
“It was an absolutely perfect solution for all of us,” Stinson says. “Matt and Stephanie’s home turf is certainly downtown and we are naturally a fit at the Stovehouse location. Matt and Stephanie have excelled at selling wines and spirits, and fast casual food is our vibe.”
Stinson and Ford already have Bark & Barrel BBQ at Stovehouse, located at 3414 Governors Drive S.W. and just down the street from Campus No. 805, home to standout Stinson/Ford flagship Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza.
The Mells’ downtown concepts include upscale gem Purveyor, at 201 Jefferson, a few blocks north of Corner Pour, at 114 Clinton Ave. E.
The Mells got their toehold in Huntsville’s service industry with Church Street Wine Shoppe. The couple is moving that puzzle piece too. They’re relocating Church Street Wine Shoppe to the historic Humphreys–Rodgers House, address 102 Gates Ave. S.W. The oenophile hub will be rebranded with a new name and feature Mazzara’s Italian food in a sit-down format, as well as tapas items. (The Mells with continue to offer Mazzara’s catering too.)
“Throughout the time that we operated Mazzara’s at Stovehouse,” Kennedy-Mell says, “we would consistently get calls from customers requesting reservations for Mazzara’s. We would explain the seating and style of Stovehouse, but it opened our eyes to the need for sit-down classic restaurant style experience.”
The Mells aren’t leaving Stovehouse entirely though. The Pourhouse, their bar with rooftop seating, a hotspot during Stovehouse live music nights, will keep spirits, wines and beers flowing there.
So now the Xs and Os have been drawn. But what exactly can we expect from Parm & Pepper and The Corner Pour? Stinson says Parm & Pepper will serve gourmet sandwiches, including the Pork Boss, a porchetta, pork belly confit and pulled pork sandwich, served on rosemary ciabatta with chimichurri.
Also on the menu: New York style pizza slices and house-made ice creams, including a bourbon butter pecan. Food prices will start at $5 and go up to 12 bucks or so.
For The Corner Pour, the Mells will retain The Drinkery’s self-pour format. Kennedy-Mell says The Corner Pour will boast some local brewery beers that will only be available there. Also look for imports available for the first time in Alabama, as well as a wine selection. The Corner Pour will also offer bar food, like sandwiches, spring rolls and “spiked” guacamole, as well at Giustino’s Gelato that Mazzara’s fans will appreciate. Beers will be priced by the ounce. Food items will go for $7 to $15.
Stinson and Ford and the Mells hope to open their respective new spots by the end of October. Stinson says the two parties have a great relationship, strengthened from their time at Stovehouse together. “We each offer food offerings,” he says, “but at different levels.” Kennedy-Mell adds, “Stan and Tina made this swap easy. As entrepreneurs you need to be open minded, forward-thinking and able to adapt, especially during a pandemic. This idea was out of the box and we both needed to recognize the opportunity and then be able react accordingly. And we did.”
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