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HillGarten Beer & Wine Garden opens in Hilliard, Ohio, showcasing sustainable and unique materials




MARTY AND SANDY NOWAK wanted to support a local nonprofit assisting seriously ill children and their families, so naturally they turned to hospitality to fund their philanthropy.

Back in 2018, the Columbus, Ohio-area residents bought a rundown property on Main Street in the Old Hilliard DORA district hoping to transform it into a charming café, but the pandemic paused the plan. The couple was committed to Hilliard, Ohio, as Sandy volunteered at the charity based there, and as Marty Nowak told local media, “We wanted to add to the momentum of what was happening in Old Hilliard.”

They later learned the home’s faltering foundation required teardown, so they cleared the site – leaving just the garden shed – and altered their original plan.

Tapping Into Local THIS PAGE: Featuring a 560-square-foot walk-up bar housed in a former shed, HillGarten welcomes patrons with atypical sustainable and tactile materials. 📷 Marshall Evan Photography, Columbus, Ohio

The new concept is a local take on a European biergarten. HillGarten Beer & Wine Garden combines a 560-square-foot kitchen and walk-up bar in the former shed, now expanded and flanked by oak columns – offering craft beer, wine, spirits and “German-leaning” fare (the best wursts and Bavarian pretzels) amid lush landscaping and a variety of outdoor seating options.

To realize HillGarten, the Nowaks turned to CO-G Architecture LLP (Boston), for a range of services including “brand and content creation, restaurant vision and strategy,” explains Elle Gerdeman, CO-G’s Principal. The firm is known for its sustainable approach to projects as well as addressing regional design characteristics, climate resilience, environmental impact and site-specific “weathering.” For example, they chose oak for some architectural elements because it ages to a silver gray sympathetic to the refurbished shed’s dusty green exterior.


The CO-G team kept the original shed’s proportions and expanded the storytelling through materials. Pegboard recalls a vintage potting shed, where garden tools and pots now coexist with bar tools and beer taps. The patio overhang, constructed with greenhouse-style polycarbonate, accommodates hanging plants overhead.


Tapping Into Local THIS IMAGE: Crushed limestone adds a local flair to HillGarten, the creation of which utilized a range of local craftspeople for various touches like columns and an ordering window.

True to sustainable tenants, CO-G turned to local craftspeople and regionally available materials and time-honored techniques. Specifically, the signature “belly” columns were hand-shaped using a wood plane by a local carpenter who specializes in timber construction and barns of Ohio. “[The wood plane technique] was an extraordinary process,” Gerdeman notes, “and made for some truly bespoke and authentic pieces.” The solid-wood order window, also handmade, was created by a Columbus glass artisan.

Crushed limestone, a local stone, adds to the welcoming landscape complete with raised beds for herbs grown for onsite use, along with flowering evergreens and hedge plants. The team designed bench-height tree planters as banquettes, bringing guests closer to the garden aesthetic.

Marty Nowak handled much of the construction, Gerdeman says, as the project’s budget was the biggest hurdle. They kept costs down by using off-the-shelf materials from local stores. “The design features and details were all strategized to be constructed simply and quickly in a way that uses affordable materials,” Gerdeman says, “but tweaks them through design such that they feel special, custom and memorable.”

📷 Marshall Evan Photography, Columbus, Ohio

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Former editor-in-chief of VMSD magazine. Writing for VMSD since 1985-1998; 2022.



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