All across the Outer Banks are people doing their best to make a living while still finding time to enjoy this wonderful place they call home. In this edition of Get to Know a Local, you’ll meet one of them, Kenneth Hyman, managing partner of TRiO Restaurant and Market in Kitty Hawk.
TRiO opened in early August 2011. However, its true beginnings started with its predecessor, Native Vine, which opened in 2003 in Point Harbor. Over the past 20 years, it has grown organically from a small tasting room and shop featuring primarily North Carolina wines into a full-service restaurant and gourmet shop featuring local products as well as labels from around the cheese, beer and wine worlds.
"I recently saw my ‘business plan’ notes in an old notebook from 2009, prior to opening TRiO,” Hyman says. “The game plan was to create a ‘comfortable environment to enjoy a glass, a bite or a meal,’ and I think we’ve been able to accomplish that.”
Hyman says 2023 was a big year for TRiO. "In the spring we more than doubled the size of our kitchen, making it much easier to serve the crab pots pies, steaks, French dips and other specialties from our menu,” he says. “In October, we added mixed beverages. Cocktails have fit in seamlessly with our concept, and our customers seem to love the additional choices.”
The TRiO retail store continues to grow, with more than 2,000 wine and 500 craft beer labels as well as 50+ hand-cut cheeses from around the world.
"Mrs. Sharon, who has been with us for 18 years, leads the retail team and continues to offer wine tastings and classes twice a week,” Hyman says.
All in all, TRiO is a wine bar, full bar, gathering spot, restaurant, wine shop, cheesemonger and gourmet market all rolled into one. To get to know more about TRiO and the man behind this much-loved Outer Banks business, keep reading.
Photo: TRiO, seen here in a painting by Meg Rubino, can be found on Croatan Highway in the heart of Kitty Hawk.
How long have you lived on the Outer Banks and how did you end up here?
Melissa and I moved here in March 2003. We wanted to be close to our families in Richmond and Fredericksburg, but we also wanted to live the “beach life.”
How did you get into this line of work?
Wine had been a passion of mine, and I decided to make it a profession. While we had previous ownership experience in retail, we really knew nothing about the wine business. I guess we had the blind confidence that we’d eventually figure it out.
What did you do before you were in this business?
After some graduate work in Japan in the late ’80s, I stayed in Tokyo and worked with a British investment bank for a bit, returning to Richmond in ’92. A brief dabble in the bar business was followed by five years in Branson, Missouri, running our own retail shop. I say we because I somehow convinced Melissa to move there (and marry me)! In 2003 we made the move closer to “home” and came to Kitty Hawk.
Photo: Melissa and Kenny Hyman moved to the Outer Banks in 2003 and started a wine shop called Native Vine, which morphed into TRiO in 2011.
What motivates you to work hard in your line of work?
A happy customer is the ultimate, positive reinforcement in the retail and the hospitality businesses. We take it a step further and apply that to our staff and our vendors. My thoughts are that if your customers and staff are happy, you are on the way to being a successful business. An excerpt from our corporate mission statement says, “We enrich the lives of our staff, vendors and customers ... and contribute positively to our community.” I’d like to think our hard work over the years has enriched lots of lives!
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Without a doubt, managing staff is the most challenging part of the job. Each employee brings with them a lifetime of experiences, knowledge and ideas, but also the more challenging issues of the “ups and downs” of daily life.
What are three of your favorite wines and in what setting would you drink them?
My favorite setting to drink wine is always with close friends ... and being outside never hurts. I’m all over the place on the styles of wine that I like, though I tend to prefer interesting wines from smaller, family-owned producers. My top choices would be Champagne and almost anything Italian red or white, so let’s go with Barbera and Arneis.
Photo: Kenny in his element at Casanova di Neri Vineyards in Montalcino, Tuscany.
What is currently your favorite dish on the TRiO menu and why?
I love dishes that are prepared well using simple ingredients, but where the flavors you get are more than the sum of individual ingredients. Our roasted cauliflower drizzled with olive oil is slightly charred with Parmigiano Reggiano shaved on top and served with chimichurri ... it’s so simple, but so good! Our Crab Pot Pie is also quite memorable.
When you’re not dining at your own restaurant, would you rather order take-out, go out to eat or cook something at home?
I love cooking for my family at home. At the same time, there are so many great local restaurants in the area, and our family makes the rounds! It seems like Melissa and I can always entice our girls to hang with us if we invite them for sushi!
What is your favorite local seafood?
If flounder is on the menu, I’m ordering it. And of course oysters.
What’s your favorite OBX town or village?
Does Ocracoke count?
What is your favorite thing about living on the Outer Banks?
Salt air is very comforting to me! I also love the small-town feel of our community. Friends and family who visit are always amazed at how many people know each other, anywhere we go in the Outer Banks. That feeling of belonging to a community is priceless.
What is your favorite season on the Outer Banks?
Any season other than late winter
What do you do for fun?
Walk the neighborhood/beach with Melissa and our pup, and “ninja” workouts with Dan Althoff and the gang.
What do you do in the off-season?
We take the winter to complete repairs, start new projects, make improvements ... and recharge
What’s your favorite beach access?
Anywhere on Ocracoke
Describe your perfect day off.
Our family all stays fairly busy, but the fam gathering for meal is a great chance for us all to slow down and reconnect.
Do you see more sunrises or sunsets?
What’s one thing you wish more Outer Banks visitors knew?
What to do at crosswalks and how to be a bit more environmentally conscious during their visit.
Where do you go on vacation?
Locally, it’s Ocracoke. With a bit more time it’s overseas anywhere!
Photo: The Hyman family traveling in Bangkok, left to right, Maia, Melissa, Eva and Kenny.
Do you have any side hustles?
Not currently, but there are always ideas lurking!
Do you have any pet projects or is there a local nonprofit that you’re passionate about?
There are so many charities and people in our community doing great work, and we’ve tried to support as many as possible over the years. Outer Banks SPCA, Surfing for Autism, Beach Food Pantry and Room at the Inn are a few that come to mind.
What’s one item on your bucket list?
I’ve been fortunate to cross off lots of bucket list items, but it’s a big, interesting world out there. At this point for me it’s less about the specifics of where and what and more about just going and doing, especially with the four of us.