YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR PUMPING NEW LIFE INTO ONCE POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT.
Nick Bergelt remembers the fun he had in Park Plaza while growing up on Hilton Head over a decade ago. Establishments like Monkey Business and Electric Piano made the spot the island’s de facto entertainment district. But over the years, the plaza faded from its popular days. Buildings went dark; tenants came and went. One thing that didn’t change, however, was Bergelt’s love of the plaza and the vision he had to return Park Plaza to it’s former glory.
Now at 31, he’s gaining momentum with those plans to bring back the unique restaurants and establishments that many island locals and visitors still remember fondly. He and his wife, Andrea, have already made a start on their plans. In 2012, they opened Charbar Co, a gourmet burger restaurant, in the plaza at 33 Office Park Road. Two years later, they established ¡Holy Tequila!, bringing a modern Mexican restaurant and tequila bar to the beleaguered south-end area. But that was just the beginning. The same year they opened Holy Tequila, they acquired the former Monkey Business followed by the the old Electric Piano location a year after that. Plans are currently underway to open new concepts in the vein of Charbar and Holy Tequila. Bergelt’s not ready to divulge the details, but he says, “it’s all part of our plan to build an overarching hospitality group brand that really represents the guest experience that one can anticipate at each of our restaurants exemplified through new flavors & quality standards, unparalleled hospitality & service, great design and hundreds of little details that bring it all together. That is one of the reasons I believe we are successful, because all the little things, all the thought that goes into each experience for the guest and how our team makes them feel when dining in any of our establishments and ultimately that is what we hope the community will associate with each of our group’s concepts.”
All the plans are occurring under the umbrella of HHI Hospitality, the hospitality group of which Bergelt is CEO. But rather than spread restaurants around the region, he’s focusing on one locale. He has plans to have multiple concepts within the group, all distinctly unique experiences that focus on a total package of dining and entertainment with a heavy dose of hospitality— and all in the plaza. “I look at each restaurant as a full-sensory experience,” he says. “it’s how you feel when you walk in, when the guest can see, touch & taste all those little details, that is where we really excel.”
Since opening Charbar in 2012, HHI Hospitality now employs many people, and Bergelt says, some of them have been with him since the beginning and have risen through the ranks to management and leadership positions at all levels. He takes pride in being able to provide more than just a job. “At the end of the day, we look at our team as a big family, and we truly care about our employees,” he says. “We try to inspire individuals on a deeper level and are consciously building a culture that gives them a career in which they can grow.”
He also enjoys pleasing residents and visitors on the island where he was born and raised. He says when developing new concepts, he first looks for what type of establishment Hilton Head needs and works from there in designing the concept. “With each of the restaurants, we’re trying to create something that hasn’t been done before while adding value to the community,” he says. As for Park Plaza, Bergelt is convinced it will once again attract crowds seeking not only a good meal, but also a well rounded entertainment destination. He points to the future hospitality campus for the University of South Carolina Beaufort, which is moving next door, as another driving force in revitalizing the area. Bergelt hopes to supply the rest of the success equation with new ideas for serving the island. “We see Park Plaza as a perfect hotbed for developing concepts,” he says. “Although we look forward to what is to come, we focus on being the very best today, and everyday, and I believe that will serve us well for years to come.”