Nick Wilson - One of the Many People Behind 1618 Concepts and Greensboro’s Favorite Upscale Restaurants and Bars
By Carla G. Harper
Nick Wilson and George Neal were given the opportunity to invest in 1618 WEST in 2009.
They’d been running the restaurant since its 2004 inception. As owners, they kept the same
attitude as when they’d been managers and about every other position in the hospitality
business. Offer a great dining experience to every single customer. Treat every team member
like a professional. Operate a safe environment. Pay people a living wage with insurance and
paid time off.
And that’s what they have achieved, plus so much more.
1618 WEST is arguably Greensboro’s favorite upscale restaurant and bar. What patrons
experience is consistently delicious, high-quality food, but a lot is going on behind the plate, so
to speak. What’s emerged in recent years is 1618 Concepts.
The new moniker encompasses two restaurants, a catering business with a mobile kitchen.
Making it all come together are just over a hundred employees committed to the same people-
first, community-based business model Nick and George championed from the start.
“We’ve got a number of people that have been with us for over fifteen years. There’s not much
turnover compared to industry standards. We know that the root of this success is how we
approach every aspect of the business,” says Nick.
NICK WILSON’S FAVORITE LIFE QUOTE:
“WHEN YOU STOP GROWING, YOU START DYING.”– WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
A Career of Serving Great Food and Experience
As a young teenager, Nick Wilson got his first taste of the hospitality industry working in a
retirement community in Charlotte. He studied Accounting at UNC-G but mainly stayed with
food service professionally.
“The opportunity to buy into a restaurant seemed like a worthwhile risk. So, I left UNC-G and
went full-time to help grow 1618,” Nick says.
There’s been no looking back and steady growth since then. The 1618 crew even made
lemonade when COVID was passing out lemons.
They’d planned to make some minor repairs in the kitchen. Then, shutdowns related to COVID
created uncertainty along with long lead times for equipment and supplies. The project got
pushed to 2023 and ended up with an overhaul of the kitchen and cosmetic updates in the
dining room and bar. “A 20-day project took nine weeks and went 150% over budget,” Nick
During COVID shutdowns, Nick and George initiated a takeout service that kept quality at the
forefront. Like during other rapid cost spikes, 1618 insisted on fresh seafood. “We just sucked it
up as often as possible,” Nick remembers, “to keep our prices as steady as feasible.”
Regulars rewarded them with takeout business and the gift of extra tips here and there, which
helped make up some of the difference from lost business during COVID.
The people at 1618 Concepts are part of the community and see what they do as building
community. And this mindset goes right into every plate that leaves the kitchen. Nick reports,
“Someone in management looks at every plate before it leaves the kitchen. It’s our last stop
quality point. And it’s crucial to us.”
Nick is passionate about the craft of every food and beverage item 1618 offers – wines,
cocktails, menus. He’s equally passionate about building a leadership team to carry on this
vision. “We’ve built our reputation on consistent quality, product knowledge, and
professionalism,” Nick adds.
What’s Next for 1618 Concepts?
The original 1618 – known fondly as the Mothership by regulars- has also expanded into the
adjoining space that was once a Leon’s Salon. The extra space accommodates overflow from the
dining room and is excellent for private events.
In fact, private events are the arena Nick and the 1618 team are expanding.
“The catering segment has taken off. We catered 82 weddings in 2022. It started with
customers asking us to cook in their homes for small, intimate dinner parties, then led to
requests for a rehearsal dinner or the dinner for their kid’s wedding. It’s all been very organic,”
Today, 1618 Catering serves Furniture Market, corporate events, weddings, and more.
Nick says, “We want to continue to expand our in-home experiences, including cooking demos.
Plus, there’s just a slew of clients and event planners asking for special event catering from
Blowing Rock to Morehead City, and even more calls are coming from Virginia.”
According to Nick, no plans exist to expand or to reopen other locations. The Elm Street
location has long been shuttered.
The Old Irving Plaza 1618 MIDTOWN at 1724 Battleground Avenue is a bustling, fun place to meet for drinks after work or on the weekends and get a bite to eat that’s just as fabulous as what you’ll get at 1618 WEST.
“We’re adding an oyster program and some Sushi to the menu at 1618 WEST. Our idea is to
keep doing what we do best while continuously evolving and staying fresh. The food focuses on
seafood with a few additional great options to round it out.”
Everything is Connected to the Community for Nick Wilson
“I love Greensboro. When I moved here years ago, I quickly felt the same strong sense of
community I’d known growing up near San Francisco. It should be a no-brainer – we’re all in this
together. But it’s not that way everywhere,” he comments.
A long list of awards bears witness to Nick’s community commitment despite his workload: the
Triad Business Journal 40 Under 40 award, an Action Greensboro Made in Greensboro honoree,
and the Greensboro Chamber Small Business Person of the Year award.
He’s just joined the Peacehaven Community Farm Board. The 89-acre Whitsett, NC farm
mission “is to connect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to the larger
community through shared living and the work of a sustainable farm.”
Peacehaven has big plans for expansion, with more housing and a community center. Learn
more about Peacehaven Community Farm in Whitsett, NC at https://www.peacehavenfarm.org/
Nick is also on the Development Committee of the Community Foundation of Greater
Greensboro. The Community Foundation is a forty-year-old steward for investment and catalyst
for change in Greensboro.
Find out what’s happening with any facet of 1618 Concepts
Start your search at 1618concepts.com. From there, you can make a reservation at 1618 WEST.
See what’s new on the menu at 1618 MIDTOWN. Learn how to get 1618 On Location. And you
can sign up for the Book Club.
Carla G. Harper is a North Carolina based writer, publisher, and marketing professional. Learn more about her services at www.West65inc.com. Reach Carla at [email protected]. Sign up for her Leadership Quote of the Day free service here. Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.