WILMINGTON – In the former Costello’s spot on Princess Street, there’s a very different kind of bar opening. Gone is the cabaret vibe; Old Guerdon Lodge is going for rustic hunting lodge.
Renovations took months, overhauling nearly every square inch of the space. Owner Marc Mereyde said it has been worth it to realize the idea he’s had for the last 10 years.
Mereyde was born in France but spent spent quite a bit of time in North and South Carolina growing up before finally settling in the United States when he was 18. Mereyde said he could have traded on Parisian cool, but was more influenced by his time hunting and fishing in the American outdoors.
“I could have opened a wine bar, of course. And will have very good wine – but no French wine, all American wines. We have very good wines in America – nothing to be embarrassed about,” Mereyde said. “I grew up around some snobby people, saying ‘oh it has to be French wine,’ so I naturally moved away from that.”
Mereyde said he likes to joke with his French friends that it was American rootstock, including muscadine from North Carolina, that saved French vineyards from the phylloxera plague in the mid-1800s. The American varietals were immune to the phylloxera aphid and helped France rebuild – meaning, Mereyde said with a laugh – French wine is really American wine.
The décor at Old Guerdon Lodge is meant to re-enforce that unpretentious attitude. The wood walls, all local North Carolina timber, the local taxidermy – a friend of Mereyde’s donated three bucks, one from Eagle Island, one from Charlotte and one from Brunswick County – will match Mereyde’s musical choices: bluegrass, vintage country and rock.
“I’m hoping it’s the right feel and balance,” Mereyde said. “Someplace you can come in for a beer and feel comfortable and at home, but say your wife or friend wants a nice glass of wine, we definitely accommodate that, too. I think of rustic hunting lodge, not a spit on the floor kind of place.”
Mereyde admits to being “a bit of a nerd,” despite his love of the outdoors and, in a way, that’s where the bar’s name comes from: “Guerdon,” meaning “reward,” dates back to Chaucer and popped out at Mereyde in a line from Shakespeare. The archaic word has the advantage of being relatively unique; Meredye, the CEO and founder of web design and digital marketing firm, knows well that can be valuable.
“It’s not common – but the meaning is, you’ve had a long day, now you can come and have a drink, have your reward,” Mereyde said.
There’s some dispute over how to actually pronounce Guerdon, but Mereyde said it’s the spirit that counts.
“Some say ‘goo-don,’ some say ‘gwer-don,’ but as long as you’re coming by for a drink, it’s fine,” Mereyde said.
Mereyde hopes to open Old Guerdon Lodge by the end of April and, while he’s still working out details, hopes to be open 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. He has tentative plans to do some live music, mostly acoustic soloists or two-pieces.
Old Guerdon Lodge will serve wine, liquor and bottled beer – with one specialty draft beer on tap. The bar is located at 211 Princess St. You can sign up for Old Guerdon Lodge’s newsletter here, and look for updates on its Facebook page.