Written by Suzanne Conway
Photos by Steve Babin
Stephanie Mell is passionate. Her unabashed love of wine, art and charity has found the perfect synergy in her businesses. Both Church Street Wine Shoppe and its younger sibling, Purveyor, are warm indications of her open, approachable and welcoming personality. She and her husband and business partner, Matt, welcome you and make you feel like you have come back home every time you enter.
The Mells have not always lived in Huntsville. In fact, during their time spent living in Los Angeles, they developed a passion for wine and wine bars, which were on practically every corner. When they moved to Huntsville, they saw that it was devoid of places like the wine bars they had come to love. They missed the casual, laid back, unpretentious spots that they used to go enjoy a glass of wine, without the noise and lack of privacy in a traditional bar. With Stephanie’s impressive background in business and strategic planning, they got to work and decided to try and fill the niche, spending the next three years planning and seeking out the right venue. They knew they wanted a place similar to the California wine shops they adored. Stephanie stated, “It all came together and Church Street Wine Shoppe was born in Downtown Huntsville in 2014.” Purveyor followed in 2017.
The spaces are equally appealing, depending on your mood. You might choose to relax with a nice glass of cabernet and read a book by yourself at the artsy, homey, Church Street location. Or opt for fine-dining in a cool uptown-meets-downtown vibe at Purveyor and grab a flight of Stephanie’s favorite spirit, gin, infused with varying wonderful essences like lavender. Either way, there is no dress code and no need to stress about going home to change after work. There are ladies in workout gear and men in suits. “Come as your are” is a golden rule.
And people certainly are coming. The wine club that Church Street started has over five hundred members. “The club meets monthly for a five-course wine tasting with exclusive farm to table food pairing. All dinners include a speaker, some with the actual wine-maker flying in to explain and discuss their wines,” explained Stephanie.
Another of Stephanie’s passions is art. A Long Island native, she attended college in New York and holds an art degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Stop, linger and look around the walls at both locations (go early before it gets too crowded for lingering to be practical.) All the art you see at Church Street Wine Shoppe is by local artists and is available for purchase. The art is rotated every three months to allow the most artists the greatest visibility at these unique gathering spots.
The completing piece of Stephanie’s “Passion Triad” is charity. Upon moving to Huntsville, she worked exclusively for local charities from 2011- 2014. Once they opened Church Street, she could no longer devote herself full-time to the work, but she remains committed to giving back and to helping others. An amazing way that her three passions merge and complement each other is when a new artist debuts their art on the walls of Church Street Wine Shoppe. Each artist is asked to choose a charity of his or her choice and Stephanie arranges for most of the proceeds of the debut event to benefit that charity.
This encapsulates Stephanie’s lovely philosophy for her businesses: Drink wine, appreciate art and give to charity—all at the same time. Amen.