Citizen Spotlight: Stephen and Jeanine Stubbs

Stephen and Jeanine (photo S Jason Cole).

Stephen and Jeanine Stubbs personify hospitality and are welcoming and warm hosts both in their home and in their business. As co-owners of the popular local winery, Four Horses and a Dog, Stephen and Jeanine complement each other like one of their fine wine selections, with subtle notes of humility complimented with bright and loving energy. When they moved to their small farm just outside of Excelsior Springs they had never dreamed of owning a business or establishing a winery. Stephen said that one day his friend, now business partner, Mike Jennings stopped by for a visit and asked him what they did with their land. “I told him not much, we were raising a few horses and that was pretty much it,” chuckled Stephen. Mike told Stephen that he had always dreamed of growing his own grapes and making wine. “He told me ‘I have the expertise, and I work for a Canadian fertilizer company,’ the second part was true, the first part wasn’t, he knew nothing about making wine and I didn’t either, but we found out it’s fun,” Stephen laughed. 

Customers enjoy live music and the fun and relaxing atmosphere at Four Horses and a Dog (submitted photo).

“At the time we started the business we had four horses and a dog,” said Jeanine, she added that not only did she like the name, but she said it also matched their attitude towards the business. “We just try to be down to earth, unpretentious, and just wanted to provide people a place where they can relax, be outdoors, and just unwind,” she said. Six years later, the winery is booming and visitors come from across the region to experience the wine, yes, but also the amazing hospitality. “We get a lot of new visitors every weekend, almost 70 percent of our business, it’s really quite amazing,” said Stephen. The couple agreed that they focus much of their attention on hospitality towards the customers. Whereas many wineries do tastings where customers stand at a bar, Jeanine, Stephen, and their staff seat their customers and wait on them much like any other restaurant. “It’s not a very efficient business model. It’s a lot more expensive to do it that way, but I think that’s what helped us gain the business that we have, the fact that we’re just very friendly and we’re very hospitable,” smiled Jeanine. 

vineyard at FH&D
The vineyards at Four Horses and a Dog are immaculate (photo S Jason Cole).

The couple met while working in the pharmaceutical industry and eventually found themselves building a life and sharing adventures here in Excelsior Springs. Stephen said that Jeanine liked the property because the winding road and hills reminded her of growing up near Pittsburgh, PA. At first, they said they were so busy they weren’t very involved in the community, but once they retired they became more involved. Stephen has served on the Chamber of Commerce Board of directors and now sits on the Capital Improvements board. Jeanine has jumped in over the past couple of years, joining the Excelsior Springs Hospital Foundation Board, the Downtown Excelsior Partnership board, and serving on the Museum Board. She also serves for a nonprofit in St. Joseph called Sisters of Solace, a transitional home for women who have been abused or addicted.

Both Stephen and Jeanine said that they wouldn’t be where they are today without the support of the Excelsior Springs Community. They said that they feel that everyone in the community is pulling together to make it a better place. Although there are several wineries in the area Stephen said they don’t feel like they’re in competition with anyone, but rather they complement one another. “I like to tell people that, that when they’re here, they’re within 30 minutes of five wineries… and the five establishments could not be more different than night from day, our grounds are different, our personalities are different, our atmospheres are different, our wines are different,  and our hope is that they try them all,” exclaimed Stephen.  Jeanine added that she feels the more experiences people have in our area, the more they want to come back. “I have a T-shirt from Cirque du Soleil that says ‘we rise by lifting each other,’ and I believe that we will all get better if we continue to lift each other up,” she said.  Although it might be difficult to see the success and growth of Excelsior Springs, the Stubb’s said they constantly hear affirmations from their customers, “they’re surprised, they’re pleased, they enjoy themselves, they want to come back,” smiled Jeanine.

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