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Northwest Missouri State University

Alumni Spotlight

Lydia Melton’s experience studying in Belgium inspired her to open a European-themed pub and café, which she’s also using to help employees build their own leadership skills.

Lydia Melton’s experience studying in Belgium inspired her to open a European-themed pub and café, which she’s also using to help employees build their own leadership skills. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

    April 11, 2016

    Young alumna opens business inspired by study abroad experience

    By Katie Machovsky, web content specialist

    Northwest Alumni Magazine

    An excerpt of this story appears in the spring 2016 edition of the Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view more content from the magazine and an e-edition of the magazine, visit

    Lydia Melton ’09, ’11 was born an entrepreneur.

    “I remember having a lemonade stand when I was a child,” she said. “However, I didn’t sell lemonade. I sold blue Kool-Aid because everyone else sold lemonade. I wanted to be different.” 

    Melton maintains that spirit now with Gunter Hans European Pub and Café, which she owns and operates in Columbia, Missouri. She got the idea for the pub and café while studying abroad as a Northwest student in Belgium. She lived across the street from a bakery and woke up each morning to the smell of fresh bread.

    “I had no idea what fresh bread tasted like – or at least something that didn’t come prepackaged from the freezer,” she said. “People would pay for this, and it’s so good. Americans, in general, tend to make food so quickly and don’t take the time to do the extra steps to make it better.”

    As a graduate student, Melton had many opportunities to discuss her business plans with faculty in Northwest’s School of Business. She also presented her business plan at a conference.

    When Melton opened Gunter Hans in 2013, she served beer and offered a snack bar with a gelato case, bretzels and waffles. Customers did not grasp the idea of a snack bar, however.

    “Our customers wanted a meal, so we adjusted our menu and kept what worked for us,” Melton said. 

    At the beginning, Gunter Hans had seven taps of specialty beer. People enjoyed the beer selection so much they requested more. Melton ultimately added another wall of tap beer and full bar service.

    Being a wine connoisseur, Melton incorporated a wine-on-tap system into her bar, too.  Gunter Hans may not be the only bar in Columbia to have wine on tap, but it is the only bar with wine that is not exposed to oxygen until it hits a glass. Melton also knows wine from the barrel produces 130 five-ounce glasses, compared to five glasses from a bottle.

    “I am not a huge fan of feeling like I have to finish a bottle,” she said. “I also know that when you go to a restaurant and order a glass of wine, you know that it may have been open for a few days.”

    Gunter Hans has seven types of wine on tap from Europe and Chile. It also is on its way to becoming one of the first bars to offer a sparkling wine on tap.

    For people wanting to own their own business, Melton says it’s important to be proactive.

    “Take opportunities to network and join leadership committees,” Melton said. “Pursue activities in life that will get you results. I would rather be paid any day based on my results versus how much work I accomplish.”

    Melton also hopes to build her business as a career-path for her employees. She spends significant time educating employees about leadership skills that will help them throughout life.

    “Ultimately, I would like to have a structured program where employers look at Gunter Hans and say, ‘Wow, I have never been there, but I have heard of it. I know what they are doing, and for that reason I will choose to hire this applicant because of their integrity,’” Melton said.

    Melton may no longer sell blue Kool-Aid from a stand, but she is fulfilling her dreams as an entrepreneur and proud owner of a unique beer, wine and bretzel bar where she is passing on the knowledge and education she received at Northwest.

    To learn more, visit

    For more information, please contact:

    Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

    Northwest Missouri State University
    215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468