Noblesville Locals Talk Hometown Pride, Finding Their Professional Stride at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

Photographer: Amy Payne

Noblesville residents Ryan Fitzpatrick and James Gibson see certain parallels between the city they’ve called home since they were young, and their shared place of employment, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant on East 96th Street.

Both offer unique visual surroundings and a fun setting for socialization, and both have grown in popularity in recent years. Gibson and Fitzpatrick feel that the leaders within both the restaurant and the city have kept a strong focus on personal relationships throughout their respective growth.

“One of the things I enjoy most is just recognizing the people that come in to the restaurant and saying hi and engaging in conversations with all of our Wine Club members – that’s probably the most fun of what I do here,” says Fitzpatrick, a 30-year Noblesville resident who serves as senior general manager and oversees two Cooper’s Hawk locations in Cincinnati, the Indy store and an upcoming location in Dayton, Ohio.

Both Fitzpatrick and Gibson have brought their passion for people to Cooper’s Hawk, which includes upscale-casual dining, a full-service bar, a private barrel-aging room, a tasting room and a gift store. The establishment also offers a Wine Club, through which members receive a new wine every month, exclusive discounts, a newsletter, invitations to members-only events and more.

“James and I will sometimes see someone at the restaurant one or both of us know from our Noblesville connections, which is fun,” Fitzpatrick says. “That’s something that we feed off of because he might know someone that I don’t know since I didn’t come to Noblesville until high school, and there might be a mutual friend that we didn’t know that we had. I have people that come in four or five times a week and it’s fun to build relationships with them.”

Fitzpatrick’s family moved to Noblesville in 1988 for his final two years of high school, and he went on to study marketing and food service at Ball State before embarking on a career in the restaurant business. Prior to joining Cooper’s Hawk seven years ago, he spent 14 years as culinary director at Rio Bravo.

“We’re the largest wine club in America, and the challenge at Cooper’s Hawk is maintaining that high standard,” Fitzpatrick says. “In the restaurant business you have many different personalities that have to match together, so it’s also a challenge getting the team on the same page with your direction, and also making sure that you’re there for them too. We have about 130 employees at the Indianapolis location alone right now.”

Fitzpatrick adds that Cooper’s Hawk provides an ideal setting for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, and the restaurant will often roll out unique menu items for holidays. Valentine’s Day chef recommendations at the Indianapolis location this year will include a surf and turf dish of filet medallions with parmesan crusted lobster tails and double lobster tails with a parmesan crust.

As Cooper’s Hawk’s tasting room attendant and Wine Club facilitator for three years, Gibson says the personal touch he and his colleagues bring to the establishment enhances the experience for each customer.

“We create great wines for our customers and have great food on the table, and then we have great relationships with not just Wine Club members but everyone who comes in,” Gibson says. “That’s probably what I enjoy most about my job, and I couldn’t be happier here.”

Born and raised in Noblesville, Gibson has spent the majority of his career in hospitality and says the city he grew up in helped to prepare him for life’s responsibilities, on both a professional and a personal level.

“I appreciate Noblesville because growing up, it had a very small-town feel and it was a tight community,” says Gibson, adding that he enjoys exploring Indy’s music and theater scene in his spare time. “The city really has just exploded in size since I was a kid, but it still somehow has that small-town feel to the locals, just on a bigger scale. I spend a lot of time in Noblesville still, and my father and I have a standing lunch once a week.”

Fitzpatrick has a similar appreciation for the way Noblesville city leaders have kept a focus on the area’s historical and cultural identity, despite massive city-wide growth and development.

“As I grew up in Noblesville — and I still have many friendships there — I saw the area develop so much,” says Fitzpatrick, who plays in an adult hockey league in Carmel and enjoys golf and fishing during his downtime. “But when you look at the square and all of the history, you see that the town leaders have kept Noblesville’s culture and history intact, and I love that piece of the puzzle.”

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant is located at 3815 East 96th Street. Call 317-574-9463 or visit chwinery.com for additional details.