Highland Hospitality Director Tapped for VP of Brand Development

ASHEVILLE, NC — Highland Brewing Company is pleased to announce that Nikki Mitchell will join the brewery’s executive leadership team as Vice President of Brand Development. Mitchell has been with the brewery for five years. She was promoted from Private Events Sales Manager to Hospitality Director before taking on this new role. Mitchell joins the Highland executive team as the only non-family member. The executive team now includes Mitchell, Founder Oscar Wong, President/CEO Leah Wong Ashburn, and Vice President Brock Ashburn.

Leah Wong Ashburn said “I am delighted and proud to be alongside Nikki as she takes on this critical position. She has built momentum and teamwork through visionary leadership onsite, and absolutely shined during the pandemic. She will infuse her energy and pride in Highland into our regional footprint at all tiers.”

Highland Brewing Leadership, From Left to Right: Nikki Mitchell (VP of Brand Development), Oscar Wong (Founder), Leah Wong Ashburn (President/CEO), and Brock Ashburn (VP of Operations)

Below is a brief series of questions and responses from Mitchell about her new role.

Tell us about your history and some of the highlights from your work at Highland.
I moved to Asheville in 2002 and have lived in western North Carolina for most of my life. I was born in Hickory and attended the University of Georgia. I joined Highland in 2017 as a contracted sales professional for the budding private events program. Before that, I spent seven years working with Asheville Radio Group.
My journey with Highland solidified in 2018 when I moved from contractor to employee. As Private Events Sales Manager, I grew revenue by 40% in my first year and developed new event packages and guest offerings. With that success, I built a brand for Highland’s private events, enhanced the aesthetics of our venues, and created a new Private Events Department.
In 2020, I led the creation of a unified Private Events and Taproom team that allowed us to navigate new COVID-related service protocols and staff roles. The success of that integration led to my promotion to Hospitality Director in July 2020.
My greatest source of pride in that role was reimagining the career path of our Hospitality team. We created structure to attract Hospitality professionals with full-time, benefited positions and career advancement. We chose to close our brewery Taproom from January to early March 2021 to restructure roles, do service training, and renovate our taproom. The changes were impactful and, even with two months of closure, Taproom revenue grew 20% in 2021 over 2019.
We also opened our Downtown Taproom in the S&W Market in 2021 making the Hospitality Department the largest team at Highland. We are poised for record-breaking growth with the brewery taproom and private events in 2022.

What are you excited about with this new VP of Brand Development position?
I am excited to harvest the spirit of hospitality in our market. By embracing our wholesale partners and regional consumers as “guests”, we will further our mission of crafting connections through beer and beyond.
The Brand Development team will move Highland forward by aligning Innovation Brewing, Sales & Marketing, Culture, and Hospitality. Together, we will build on the success we’ve seen with our beer and brewery destination to showcase it regionally to consumers and our wholesale partners. Harnessing and sharing that brewery experience will be a game changer for Highland.

What challenges do you foresee?
Craft beer continues to face turbulent waters. Crafting the most appropriate strategies to support our company and our customers will not be easy. Highland has been a pioneer in craft for almost 30 years. Challenges aren’t foreign. We are resilient, innovative, and scrappy! We value quality, integrity, and teamwork and I am confident in our ability to face the challenges that may be ahead.


ABOUT HIGHLAND BREWING: Highland Brewing was founded in 1994 by retired engineer and entrepreneur Oscar Wong, establishing it as the pioneer of Asheville, NC’s now booming craft beer industry. Proudly regional, Highland’s beers are distributed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Highland is committed to quality and sustainability, boasting the sixth largest solar array in an American craft brewery. Today, the company is led by Wong’s daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn, and serves as the largest independent, family-owned, and operated brewery native to the Southeast. Located in a rehabilitated manufacturing facility in East Asheville, the brewery affords space for visitors to enjoy limited-release beers, walking trails, volleyball courts, and live music. In spring 2021, the brewery opened its second taproom and returned to downtown Asheville. The Downtown Taproom within the S&W Market, Asheville’s first food hall, is a great spot to try a taste of the city. For more information, visit www.highlandbrewing.com.