A date night in downtown Wilmington was what Carrie and Jason Niloff needed to take a leap on a prime business opportunity.
After moving to Wilmington about four years ago, the Niloffs were considering ways to own their own business. A local listing caught their eye, and after learning from the broker that the business for sale was The Vine on North Third Street, the couple decided to stop by the wine bar for dinner one Thursday night.
The Vine was bustling with energy that evening, Carrie Niloff recalled, and the couple sat at a window seat overlooking the historic New Hanover County Courthouse while they ate, drank wine and discussed whether they wanted to buy the business.
“It just felt right. We were all in,” Carrie Niloff said. “From that moment, we followed the process and we really haven’t looked back since.”
The Niloffs closed on the sale late last month, buying the wine bar from previous owners Randy and Deedee Hall. The Halls opened the wine and tapas bar at 25 N. Third St. along with a neighboring retail store, Taste the Olive & Vine, in 2019, relocating the latter from its original home in the Landfall Shopping Center. The Niloffs did not buy the retail store, which Carrie Niloff noted is under contract to a different buyer.
Carrie Niloff now spends her days at the wine bar as an owner/operator, and since the couple took the reins a month ago, they have slowly updated the facilities and offerings. The bathroom was recently renovated, and the eatery’s former merlot-colored walls are in the process of being repainted a gray-blue color. To give the space a more modern feel to match the revamped logo, the Niloffs will swap out the light fixtures, fans, furniture and décor. They also extended the coveted window bar overlooking North Third Street, a spot frequently requested in reservations, to accommodate more guests at a time.
The menu of tapas, charcuterie, flatbreads and more has remained the same, Niloff noted, with one exception: the restaurant now serves a selection of about 16 bourbons with a newly acquired liquor license. In the coming months, they plan to add more spirits and a limited menu of craft cocktails. Carrie Niloff observed a trend of customers leaving The Vine after a glass or two of wine in search of something different to drink, and she hopes these new additions will allow them to stay longer.
“We wanted to provide a little bit of everything, not just wines, that you can sit here and enjoy,” said Carrie Niloff.
Another new offering soon to debut is a series of special menus tied to events at nearby Thalian Hall. For example, Carrie Niloff teased something “whimsical” for the upcoming performances of The Little Mermaid later this summer.
“People who are going to Thalian will be able to stop here and have something that’s going to be a precursor to what they’re going to watch or view. And, of course, it will be delicious,” Carrie Niloff said.
The ability to be creative is one of the reasons the Niloffs were drawn to buying an existing business like The Vine, instead of franchising, which Carrie Niloff said was on the table at one point.
“We couldn’t put our own stamp on it. Everything was already created and it was wrapped up in a little bow,” Carrie Niloff said. “We wanted something that we could really dig into, and that is one of the reasons we wanted to own The Vine.”
The Niloffs do bring previous business experience to the venture, but this is their first time owning a restaurant.
“It’s an entirely different animal. We are learning many things every single day. There’s a lot more to manage, not just accounting-wise, but the constant inventory of food and wine and alcohol is something that’s new. We always have to keep on top of that, and that is not traditional in a normal day-to-day business,” Carrie Niloff said.
However, she confirmed that she’s enjoying the challenge.
“I’m here almost every day, and I’m walking around and greeting people. That’s what we were looking for. We enjoy that,” Carrie Niloff said.
The Vine is open Wednesday and Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 5-10 p.m; and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. On Wednesdays, the restaurant offers half-priced tapas.