01 Feb Chateau Bourbon Visits Our Podcast Studio
Our next-door neighbor here in Norton Commons, Missy Hillock, joins the Custom Home Builder Podcast this week to talk about Chateau Bourbon, her bustling bed-and-breakfast on Meeting Street in Norton Commons. You really can’t miss it! The B&B is a rather stately looking building featuring some of our favorite design aesthetics – like the front porch swing and rustic gas lanterns.
Missy doesn’t have a background in hospitality, interior design, or even in culinary arts, as one might guess. She’s made Norton Commons her home over the past 4.5 years and spent her professional life as a psychologist. After extensive traveling, she kept coming back to her dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast. And what a perfect place to open up shop – in a walkable, supportive community like Norton Commons!
“When You Put A Sign Out That Says ‘Bed & Breakfast’ – You Better have nice beds and you better have a great breakfast!” – Missy Hillock
- Most of the food you’ll enjoy at Chateau Bourbon comes from family recipes perfected in the kitchen over many years.
- Guests often remark the food is “the best they’ve ever had” because the ingredients are fresh and everything is homemade.
- Even the cocktails are crafted with homemade mixers – not sour mix – and, as you’d guess, they cook with a lot of Bourbon.
- Unlike other B&Bs, Chateau Bourbon was designed as a B&B from the start, so the features are geared toward the guests.
- The rooms are spacious and modern, with televisions, individual air controls, and king or queen-sized beds.
- A lot of the furniture was handmade by Mr. Hillock out of old Bourbon staves, barrels and bottles.
- Norton Commons is the perfect place to live or stay for the night.
- Chateau Bourbon, a Bourbon-themed B&B, is a great stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or the Urban Bourbon Trail.
- People have come to the B&B from as far away as Australia, or as near as just a couple doors down.
Who’s Staying At Chateau Bourbon?
“Norton Commons really is the perfect place — not only to live, but for those who can’t live within the community, for them to be able to come and visit and experience the restaurants and just the ambience and the atmosphere of the neighborhood,” Hillock explains. “All the green space and the activities and such — and then be able to stay overnight — has been really a great benefit, I feel like, to our city.”
Guests at Chateau Bourbon stay while visiting friends and family who live in Norton Commons. Some people come from across town or a neighboring state to stay while looking at houses for relocation. Others opt to spend the night after a day of eating and shopping in the community. People have come as far away as Australia or as close as a couple doors down. “We’ve had people stay here who live or work right down the street,” says Hillock, “just to spend the night away from home or have someone else cook breakfast!”
Accommodations at Chateau Bourbon for Derby week are booked through 2019, but there are still plenty of other opportunities to book a stay in Norton Commons. Visit www.ChateauBourbon.com for details or follow the business on Twitter (@ChateauBourbon), Instagram (@ChateauBourbon), or Facebook (@ChateauBourbonKY).
Chateau Bourbon Podcast Transcript:
Welcome to the Custom Home Builder Podcast series. The show for people who enjoy the home design and construction process. If you’re looking for your next builder right now, or hoping to build your dream home in a few years, our Custom Home Builder Podcast is the show that answers all of your questions as we pick the minds of experts to ensure your luxury home building process is as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
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Hey, there everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Custom Home Builder Podcast with Jason Black, the President and owner of Artisan Signature Homes, Louisville’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builder. Jason, how are you?
Jason: Greg, I’m doing great. Good to see you this morning.
Greg: You have a special guest with us today. I’m hoping you can introduce her and let us know where she is from.
Jason: We have Missy joining us from Chateau Bourbon on Meeting Street in Norton Commons today.
Greg: Missy, how are you?
Missy: I’m doing great. Thank you for having me.
Greg: It’s a pleasure. Your building actually is right next to Jason’s office. I’ve seen your building, I actually peaked in the window the other day. I hope that was all right.
Missy: You’re one of many. Everyone who walks by looks in the windows. We have to wipe the nose prints off every day.
Jason: That, or people are hanging… She’s got a cool swing on the front porch. It’s one of the few front porches on Meeting Street. People are always hanging out and snapping pictures.
Missy: We have lots of impromptu photo shoots on our porch.
Greg: Missy, what do you do here in Norton Commons?
Missy: I am the owner of the bed and breakfast. I’m also a resident of Norton Commons. I’ve lived here for four-and-a-half years. I’ve owned my business. We just celebrated our one year anniversary.
Greg: Your business and your home, are they the same or are they two different places?
Missy: They are two different places. When we built our home, we didn’t anticipate that we would be opening a business in Norton Commons. My husband and I, when we decided to do the bed and breakfast, we weren’t ready to downsize into a smaller space. We actually built an innkeeper suite for my mother, who lives on the property. We live just few streets over.
Greg: Two questions for you and they’re the same question. Why did you choose to live in Norton Commons and then, what was it about Norton Commons that made you think that it’d be a good idea to open a bed and breakfast here?
Missy: Well, one of the things that my husband and I were looking for when we were building, honestly, we wanted to be in the east end of Louisville. He’s a fireman in northern Kentucky. He commutes to work. We wanted to be close to 71. Originally, it was just location. We kept hearing from people, “You need to go look at Norton Commons. Norton Commons.”
I’m from southern Indiana. I wasn’t really familiar. I drove through one day by myself. I was like, “Oh my gosh! What is this little wonder-land I’ve driven into?” I took my husband through and I thought, “He’s probably going to hate it.” We drove in. By the time literally we got to the second stop sign, he said, “Let’s live here.”
We decided we were going to build in the neighborhood. Like I said, we did that about four-and-a-half years ago. In terms of my business, I had never intended on opening a business here. I’m actually, by my professional life, I’m a psychologist. That’s what I planned on doing well into my 50s. I had some changes in the direction that I was going with that.
I thought, “I’d really like to pursue my dream of doing a bed and breakfast.”, which is something that I thought I might like to do based on a lot of the travels that I’ve done in my life. We knew Norton Commons was a very viable neighborhood for businesses and that it was continuing to grow. Surprisingly, there were still some commercial space that was here on Meeting Street, which is, of course, the prime location for the businesses.
We did our research. We crunched the numbers. We decided it was well worth it. We couldn’t be any more pleased. It really is the perfect place not only to live, but for those who can’t live within the community, for them to be able to come and visit and experience the restaurants and just the ambience and the atmosphere of the neighborhood. All the green space and the activities and such and then be able to stay overnight has been really a great benefit, I feel like, to our city.
Greg: One of the things too, when you think of a bed and breakfast, obviously, you think of food and you’re gracious enough to bring us some cupcakes.
Missy: I did.
Jason: I just broke my New Year’s resolution. I figure I better try it if we’re going to talk about it. We’re being a good host.
Missy: That’s right.
Jason: That’s right. I didn’t want to disappoint my guest. Anytime I’m in your bed and breakfast or I see people, they always talk about the food. Do you make all the food yourself?
Missy: We make all of the food from scratch. Of course, when you put a sign out that says “Bed & Breakfast,” you better have nice beds and you better have a great breakfast. The accommodations and the food are really important. As I said, I’m a psychologist. I don’t have a culinary background. I’ve never even taken a cooking class. I’ve always like to eat my whole life, so that’s motivated me to cook.
Thankfully, my husband has enjoyed cooking as well. Most of what we do is based on just family recipes and just practicing in our own kitchen over time. People are blown away with our food because I think it’s rare these days that people eat home-cooked food. So many people are busy and on the go and they dine out a lot, which is great, but to just eat a home-cooked breakfast and to eat desserts that are made from scratch, not from a box, and homemade frostings.
We even make, when we do our cocktails, we make our own mixers. We don’t use a sour mix, for example. We’ll use fresh squeezed lemon and lime. It’s really quite simple, but just delicious, because it doesn’t have a lot of additives in it. It’s very fresh and homemade.
Jason: There’s definitely a bourbon theme.
Jason: I think we did not hit on that just yet. Tell us how that came about.
Missy: When we decided we wanted to do the bed and breakfast, of course, we, just from a business mindset, we wanted to have as many types of niches as we could just to maximize the folks who would be coming to stay. Norton Commons in itself is one of those. It has a draw of its own. People who are coming in, because they’re visiting family or friends, or because they just want to experience the neighborhood.
We thought, “What’s another thing we could tie into this that has nothing to do with Norton Commons that would bring people here?” John and I, my husband, we have a love of bourbon. People ask us all the time, “Are you bourbon connoisseurs.” Not at all. We just like to drink it. We don’t care really about the different tastings. We’re not those people. Put it in front of us and we will drink it and we also like to cook with bourbon.
It is such a great thing to add to food, both savory and sweet. We thought, “Let’s tie that in.” Then, for people who are coming to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or they’re coming to Louisville to do the Urban Bourbon Trail and just so many of the things that are growing in our city that are related to bourbon and tourism, we thought, “This would be a great thing to add on.”
It’s also a hobby of ours. We can talk about it with people. It’s also so classic to Kentucky. For people who are coming to Kentucky for whatever reason, then they’re getting that additional element of something that’s very traditional to our State.
Jason: I think that’s one of the cool things about Norton Commons is, it sounds like you didn’t have any experience in the bed and breakfast or cooking or prepping, but I can definitely hear the passion in your voice about bourbon and food and taking good care of the guests. For those people, thinking about opening a business, or thinking about coming to Norton Commons, you can do it.
Jason: It’s just a matter of follow your passion. I saw you celebrated your one year anniversary the other day. We’re friends on Facebook. The smile on your face, I mean, it just … You can see the joy in what you’re doing every day. That’s got to make the guests feel welcome.
Missy: Yes. That’s the thing about the nature of our business. I’m sure you experience this when you build someone’s dream home. You get to see them experience something that you have been a part of. That’s extremely rewarding. For me, it’s great to be able to see when people walk in the door, they immediately …
It’s almost like they gasp when they see the place. They’re like, “This is just so beautiful. It’s so amazing. Look at all the details and the touches.” Then, when they take a bite of food and they’re like, “Oh my gosh! This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” Or, “This is the best cocktail I’ve ever had.” Or, “I’ve never even tried bourbon. Now, that’s all I want to drink because this cocktail was so good.” I mean, that’s instant gratification.
I mean, that makes you feel good every single day. It’s easy to be happy and passionate when you constantly have people who are so appreciative of what you have to offer.
Jason: After you’ve drank plenty, you’ve ate plenty, you’re going to go retreat in one of your cool rooms. My personal favorite is, you’ve got a sleeping porch back there but maybe walk us through the different themes of the different bedrooms you have. You’ve got some great architecture going on.
Missy: Yes. We have four different rooms. Of course, they all have their own bathroom. I should say, one of the great things about our business as a bed and breakfast, is that most B&Bs across the country, and really anywhere that you may travel in the world, were someone’s home that was then renovated into a bed and breakfast. Maybe, they have added on bathrooms or maybe the room has a really small closet. Maybe the floorboards are just really uneven because the home is 200 years old.
What’s unique about our property is that it’s a new construction. We designed it to be a bed and breakfast. Everything that you have in terms of the rooms, the bathrooms, and even things like our business center and our guest pantry, where we provide snacks and things like that, we were able to think in advance, “What do people want to have when they travel? What, if they come to a B&B, what might they usually sacrifice that they would get at a hotel?” We wanted to include those elements in so they weren’t sacrificing.
Everything is very modern in terms of each room is individually air-controlled. Of course, we have televisions in each room and the bathrooms so it doesn’t look like a remodeled home. It looks like a great brand new home that looks old and traditional because it’s Norton Commons architecture, but it has all the modern conveniences that everyone wants.
With each of our four rooms, we have one room on the first floor, which is great if someone has an issue with stairs. We have three upstairs. All of our rooms have king beds, except the one that you mentioned, which has the sleeping porch. That one has two queens. One of those queens is inside the bedroom and the second queen bed is out on the sleeping porch, which people love.
It’s actually the only bed that I have slept in, in the house. It’s so great. It’s an exterior porch, but it’s completely enclosed. There’s no elements that are … It’s not going to get rained on and that sort of thing.
The rooms are all very large. If you think about a master suite in a very nice home, those are the size of these bedrooms. There’s one, in particular, the Angel’s Share, that’s so large, every time I go in there, I’m like, “I still feel like we need more furniture in here. This is such a huge room.”
Really, when people walk in and I say, “This is your room.” They’re like, “We get to stay in this room!” The other cool thing about our rooms is, of course, they’re each decorated differently. There are different color schemes. There are some that are a little more feminine and some that are a little more masculine, so something for everyone.
A lot of the furniture that we have is very eclectic. As a matter of fact, 20 pieces throughout the B&B, are pieces that we have owned that are part of our family furniture that we’ve either had restored or repainted and distressed to match the theme that we have within the B&B.
A lot of times when people ask us, “Oh my gosh! Where did you get this bed?” I’ll tell them and I’ll say, “But, we got it 20 years ago. You’re probably not going to find it.” Or, “That’s a custom piece that someone painted for us.” It’s not like you walk in and you look at the furniture and you say, “Oh, you got that at this place and this place.”
Then, the other cool thing about our rooms and our bed and breakfast in general, is that we, as owners, have had a very personal touch. My husband, for example, he has built many things within the property. Our fireplace, for example, is made out of Maker’s 46 bourbon staves, which our trim carpenter did. Then, my husband took extra staves, and he built a floor-to-ceiling headboard in one of the rooms. He has converted a bourbon barrel into a vanity. He’s created a light fixture out of a bourbon barrel head and some bourbon bottles.
My mother, she paints for fun. She’s done a lot of paintings within the property. When you go around and you see all the little details, most of the time when someone points something out, it’s something that either my husband made himself or my mother did or it’s our family piece. We get to tell those stories too.
Jason: What about those cool barrel swings on the back porch?
Missy: Yeah, my husband made those. He made two swings in our back patio area that are made out of bourbon staves. People love them. Not only do they look great, but they are the best swings. I tell people, “If I could just have my gas lanterns on my porch and my bourbon staves swings, I’d be happy.” Those are the two things I need to be happy.
Greg: How far away do some of your guests come? How do they find you? I’m guessing that most of your bed and breakfast people are not from here in Norton Commons, right? They’re coming from …
Missy: Honestly, there is a wide range in terms of our guests. We honestly have had many of our Norton Commons neighbors come and stay with us. There have been people who live on Meeting Street, who have come down the street, and stayed at our B&B.
Greg: They want you to cook for them.
Missy: They want me to cook. They want to have just a night away from home.
Greg: A night out.
Missy: Everybody loves that. That was the way I did things too. That’s why I’ve stayed at so many B&Bs and so many just nice boutique hotels. It’s just everybody loves a night away. We’ve had everybody from neighbors to international guests. I think our furthest guest is from Australia.
In terms of the way that people find us, we are unique in that we have not yet, in our one year of business, really put a lot of money into marketing. The way that we market is by making personal connections in the community. We’ve made a lot of connections with the distilleries. We work a lot with the Convention Bureau so people coming to town, the Convention Bureau will send folks our way.
Of course, a lot of word of mouth with our neighbors and past guests. Honestly, just having the visual presence in Norton Commons. People will come into the neighborhood to eat or to go to the doctor or visit friends. They’ll walk and they’ll see our place. They grab a brochure off the porch. They book a stay or they tell someone about it.
We have been really blessed in that we haven’t had to pay a lot to get our face out there. Of course, we have a website. We’re on all the social media sites. We’re really active with that. More of natural marketing through the social media rather than placing an ad in a magazine, for example.
Thankfully, because we are a rather unique business, we’ve had a lot of interest in terms of earned media. This morning, I was just filming a segment with our local paper, which is the Courier Journal. They’re doing a video series about chefs who cook with bourbon. They wanted me to do the whiskey sour cupcakes. I’ve done some segments …
Jason: So that wasn’t just for me?
Missy: It wasn’t just for you, although I certainly would have done it just for you. It’s great that we’ve had a lot of people approach us that want to market our business for us because they think it’s unique. Like I said, it’s in a great location and it’s got all those Kentucky elements. It’s a business that people want to get out there.
Greg: If someone’s listening, you mentioned your website and you mentioned Facebook, why don’t you tell people the best way to find you online?
Missy: Our website is chateaubourbon.com. That’s pretty much for all of our social media, it’s going to be on Twitter and Instagram, it’s going to be @chateaubourbon. For Facebook, it’s chateaubourbonky.
Greg: Wonderful. Missy, very nice to meet you. I guess we’ll have to call soon and book my own night out here with the wife.
Jason: Yes. Tell us how far in advance does somebody have to book? For Derby, I know we’re just in January now. Are you booked up for Derby?
Missy: We are booked up for Derby until 2019, but Derby, of course, is unique. I mean, that’s with any accommodations, you’re going to book out for Derby a few years in advance. For anything else, I mean, literally, we get people who call us the day of and say, “Do you have a room?” Then, we have people who book a year in advance, if it’s for a wedding or a special occasion. It really varies.
Of course, we have busier times of the year. Pretty much from April til November is kind of, I think the core travel time. Luckily, being new, we’re not booked solid every night so there’s a likelihood that someone could come with really short notice.
Jason: Fantastic. We really appreciate you joining us, I love learning a little bit more about your business and hope our listeners did as well.
Missy: Thank you. I look forward to hosting all of you out there. Thanks so much.
Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Louisville Custom Home Builder Podcast. If you’re looking to build a home and would like to reach out to Jason with any questions about the process or maybe just your individual needs and desires, please visit the website at artisansignaturehomes.com. We appreciate your time with us today and look forward to bringing you another episode next week.