Missy Hillock didn’t set out to capitalize on the trendiness and popularity of bourbon when she and her husband, John, dreamed of a bed and breakfast business. It was pure luck. In fact, Hillock said their original concept was to open an inn in a coastal area. But it was the warmth and strong friendships they built in their Norton Commons neighborhood that convinced them to move their business plan up 20 years and stay local.
The couple lived in Norton Commons for three years before launching their bed and breakfast, Chateau Bourbon, in December 2015.
Hillock, a former cognitive and developmental psychologist, said she was burned out on the bureaucracy of her job and ready for a new venture and labor of love. “We always loved cooking and hosting and thought the theme of bourbon would give people another reason to want to stay here,” said Hillock.
Farmhouse chic decor
The 5,000 square foot inn features four beautifully appointed rooms decorated in a farmhouse chic décor that manages to be casual and upscale at the same time. Hillock calls it “French cottage meets Kentucky estate home.” Hillock’s husband, John, a firefighter, created one-of-a kind bourbon-themed furnishings for the inn such as a headboard made from the wood of bourbon barrels, also known as bourbon staves. Hillock also re-purposed or refinished 27 pieces of furniture that were in her family, such as a dining room buffet that they distressed and reinvented as the bourbon tasting bar.
That living room is where guests are introduced to a bourbon theme, with a happy hour featuring a specialty bourbon cocktail and a made-from-scratch bourbon-infused dessert. Hillock said this is when she is able to chat with her guests and get to know them. “We always hear that people feel comfortable immediately when they come here,” she said. The owner also takes her guests on a tour of Norton Commons in a golf cart so they can scope out dinner plans, or shops they’d like to visit later.
Chateau Bourbon offers a three-course breakfast, starting with their signature homemade granola with “drunken” or bourbon-soaked cherries.
The other two courses vary but when guests Ken and Brenda Mudd visited, it was chicken and waffles with a bourbon maple syrup and a bourbon coffee cake for dessert. Brenda Mudd said it is obvious the way the Hillocks have poured their heart and soul into the place.
“I can’t think of one single favorite thing about our stay,” said Mudd, “because every single thing was wonderful, from the graciousness of our hosts to the great food,” she said. Her husband, Ken, who admitted his sweet tooth, also loved the food. “It was extraordinary,” he said. “Missy has a real talent for desserts.”
“Even if you’re not a bourbon lover, there’s still a place for you,” said Brenda Mudd. Her husband echoed her sentiment. “They are so gracious and easy to talk to. You feel like you are being treated special.”
Ken Mudd also held his retirement party at Chateau Bourbon, another feature the facility offers. “We cater private and public events, including baby and bridal showers, as well as host Norton Commons events such as the bi-annual newcomers’ welcome party for new Norton Commons residents,” said Hillock.
Hillock credits the “incredible support of the Norton Commons community and the city of Louisville” as one key to Chateau Bourbon’s success. “They’ve helped promote us and steered guests our way. We’ve been profitable since day one and people just fell in love with the place. The bourbon community, in particular really took us under their wing,” she said.
After nearly two and a half years in business, Hillock said she and her husband continue to add touches to enhance the guest experience. “In the last year, my mom and I have really taken off with the baking. In fact, we recently filmed a national baking competition show here,” Hillock said. “I can’t say what it is yet, but it’s a show with a major celebrity airing later this year,” she said. “We want to branch out more and do baking and cooking instruction, maybe even a cookbook,” she said.
In fact, Hillock said her favorite part of her job is cooking for guests. “Feeding people is a very intimate experience. There’s this joy I get when people eat my food and fall in love with it; it’s instant gratification.”
Norton Commons itself seems to have become a destination for some of Hillock’s guests. “We find that guests will say, ‘I had no idea what we were coming into,’ and they cancel their other plans, and just stay in Norton Commons and enjoy all it has to offer.
“I can’t think of many other places where that exists; where the community and neighborhood itself is a draw. That’s a real positive to being here.”