While driving through the Endless Mountains of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, one can see countless grapevines and a number of local wineries. Nestled in Mehoopany, however, you will find one winery that stands out from all of the others that surround the area. The family-owned Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery is branching out to a new frontier – craft beer. Nimble Hill Brewing Company began as an idea, and with the help of Peoples Neighborhood Bank, that idea became a reality.
The History of Nimble Hill: Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery
A lifelong resident of Wyoming County, Gary Toczko has always had the fire of entrepreneurship burning inside of him. He was known in the area for his family-owned wood working business, making wholesale custom furniture. In addition, Gary started a business that provided services to Procter & Gamble in 1991 – a business that would change his life forever.
After Gary and his wife Ellie purchased a 191 acre farm in Mehoopany, their electrician, who was also a winemaker, suggested that they try their hands at growing Chambourcin grapes. After some thought, the couple decided to plant 54 Chambourcin vines on a section of their farm. This decision opened the door for them to an entire group of local farmers who were also growing grapes. Word traveled around town, and when Kevin Durland heard the news, he approached Gary with another suggestion.
Kevin Durland had spent the first 30 years of his professional career working his way up through the rankings at Procter & Gamble. He began by working on the diaper lines before he became a process engineer and finally becoming a head of production planning. When Kevin decided to retire from Procter & Gamble, he was offered $5000 to be used as he saw fit for the purpose of retraining himself for a different career. Often taking some time for himself and traveling to the Finger Lakes of New York, Kevin became a lover of fine wine, which made his next career move an easy choice. He took that money and began studying the art of winemaking. After finishing his apprenticeship in the Finger Lakes, Kevin returned to the area – the right place at the right time. It was at this time that Kevin learned about the Toczko family’s new endeavor, and approached Gary with the idea of making his own wine from the grapes they were growing. Gary agreed, and the pair started making wine in the garage of Gary and Ellie’s house.
While Ellie supported her husband’s new passion, Gary jokes, “She gave me two years. Two years, then I was to be out of the garage.” During that time, Gary was completely self-financed. He and Kevin were busy producing wine and constructing the building that would become the winery.
Once the winery was up and running, it was time for Gary to consider expanding and growing the business. He approached Howard Updyke, Commercial Loan Officer for Peoples Neighborhood Bank, with his ideas and his financial needs. After discussions with Howard, Gary financed with Peoples Neighborhood Bank to add onto their existing wine building and upgrade the winery’s equipment.
“One of the great things about the local bank, I feel, is that I’m not the kind of guy that puts things down on paper,” Gary said. “I roll with the punches or think a lot and then make a decision. You come up with a number of how much you need – and that number never ends – and they make the process extremely easy. We changed that number three times over the years as we needed. Howard and Peoples Neighborhood Bank have made it very easy for us to grow. It could have been very difficult, but not with them.”
Read the full article in May’s issue of Transactions. Aren’t a subscriber? Visit the Transactions page on this website or call PACB at 717-231-7447 to start receiving the magazine.