Stephanie Kennedy-Mell and Matthew Mell were living the high life in New York City. She worked in fashion while he was a union iron worker. Then, Stephanie transferred to Los Angeles, and they lived the west-coast life for a while. But Los Angeles takes a toll on people. The Mells were ready for a change, but where would they go?
That’s when Stephanie remembered the trips they took to visit Matthew’s parents in Scottsboro, Alabama. And whenever they came to visit, Matthew’s parents would take her to Huntsville.
“I loved the community and the family atmosphere,” Stephanie said. “In California, there was not that friendliness that you get here…I was looking for a really homey town.”
So the Mells moved to Alabama.
Stephanie and Matthew didn’t want to keep up with their current careers, so the couple decided to follow their passion—WINE!
“It was just a niche that was missing here—a place for grown ups essentially to have a place to hang out where they can have a good glass of wine and enjoy a more sophisticated atmosphere.”
Stephanie and Matthew wanted to give Huntsville that high-end place to sit and talk with friends, so they opened Church Street Wine Shoppe two years ago.
When it first opened, Church Street Wine Shoppe was a new venture for Huntsville. Sure, we have our bars and our Starbucks, but neither of those provides the calming atmosphere working Huntsvillians need to unwind after a hard day.
At Church Street Wine Shoppe, the music is just loud enough for privacy, Stephanie said, but quiet enough that you can really connect with people.
And one of the biggest compliments Stephanie has received is that the Church Street Wine Shoppe is a place where anyone can go to relax, even by yourself.
“You can literally sit as a single person and just hang out at the bar,” Stephanie said. “If you want to talk, everybody is friendly; they’re all like-minded. They’re all mature. If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine, too.”
Church Street Wine Shoppe also lets Stephanie explore and be involved in her other two passions. She has an art degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a drive to help others, so Stephanie and Matthew found ways to combine all of that for the good of our community.
“We have only local artists on our walls,” Stephanie said. “Their art is for sale. We change it up every three months. On the debut of their art, they get to choose a charity of their choice, and we do a charity event to debut the artist with most of the proceeds going to the charity of their choice.”
Stephanie’s dedication to giving back is also what landed her in the Serving Hope Chocolate Challenge, where the Church Street Wine Shoppe swept almost every award category.
When she first heard about the Chocolate Challenge, Stephanie immediately jumped on board—even though the Church Street Wine Shoppe didn’t specialize in desserts. Instead of diving into the realm of baking, Stephanie decided to stick with what they knew.
“I said to my chef, ‘We’re going to do this, but we cannot do desserts.’ We wanted to go savory not just sweet,” Stephanie said.
What they could offer is an expertise in the pairing of flavors, since it’s something they do on a daily basis. They pair wine and food for customers all the time, so they took those skills and made a menu for the Chocolate Challenge that combined unusual flavors.
They brought white chocolate and hazelnut arancini with a white chocolate and vanilla glaze; a pistachio and almond chicken skewer paired with a chocolate mole sauce; a grilled-pork lollipop skewer infused with black-cherry mushroom and a wine demi-glace; a chocolate cayenne-pepper-sautéed shrimp taco with a white chocolate polenta; and a chocolate and coffee rubbed prime rib tenderloin medallion with chocolate bleu cheese sauce.
Are you hungry yet?
Church Street Wine Shoppe’s dedication to savory dishes paid off. They won the people’s choice award, the overall professional chocolate champion, first place in best table display, second place in most unusual flavor profile, and second place in most creative use of chocolate.
“We’re very team-oriented here,” Stephanie said. “I came back to the shop and thanked the servers that were working that night…the guy who was covering for the chef in the kitchen…It was 100 percent a team effort, and everyone who worked for me got a high five.”
For more information on the Church Street Wine Shoppe, check out their website.