Old Carolina Barbecue Company Opens Mentor Location

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The smell of Southern-style cookin' wafts down Mentor Avenue as Old Carolina Barbecue Company swung open its doors.

Franchise owner Todd Schafer said he developed a passion for the eatery's fare during his frequent visits to an Old Carolina Barbecue in Fairlawn and eventually decided to become part of the operation.

"I fell in love with its true authenticity," Schafer said. "Some barbecue you take for granted, but this you can't. It's made from scratch and true, true recipes from the Carolinas." Schafer, who works as a part-time firefighter in Tallmadge when he's not serving up barbecue, established his initial store at the intersection of Mayfield and Richmond roads in Lyndhurst in 2012.

He said he's proud of the fact that within a few months it won rave reviews and a People's Choice Award in a local competition.

The early beginnings of the Canton-based enterprise began when founders and pals Brian Bailey and Tim Hug traveled through the Carolinas in search of authentic recipes, often picking up tips from seasoned barbecue pit bosses at roadside shacks.

After sizzling up their own signature style, the duo competed in local and regional rib burn-offs.

"We started that route as a way to build a brand and raise some money to start the business," Bailey said. "Barbecue is just a great communal food. It's a food that just crosses over the divide." After earning dozens of awards, they opened their first location in Massillon in 2006. Currently there are seven operations throughout Northeast Ohio and more are planned.

Among distinctions setting Carolina apart from other versions of barbecue is that it's dry rubbed and hickory smoked. Some, such as Memphis style, are simmered in sauces or basted throughout the cooking process.

Old Carolina patrons can pick their sauce preference from a special bar offering a slew of choices.

Piedmont No. 5 is touted as a signature sauce and presents a tangy blend of tomato and vinegar. Others offer a sweet, smoky flavor or a pepper-base. Those hankerin' for a hotter taste might want to ask for cleverly titled types such as Screamin' Beaver or Worst Case Scenario.

Schafer noted that hospitality coupled with the freshness of their menu options are top priorities for his business.

"Until you order a sandwich, the meat is not cut," he said.

Ohio-based Nickels Bakery produces special buns with double-thick bottoms to soak up flavorful juices and sauces.

The eatery's design style is that of fast casual, an increasingly popular approach to dining that fits somewhere between fast food and full-service restaurants.

Eight of the 10 fastest-growing restaurant chains with sales above $2 million are from the fast casual sector, according to Technomic, a consulting and research firm.

Although patrons can munch on a pulled-pork sandwich or slab of ribs in the dining area, menu items are also available through carryout and catering.

Among side dishes prepared in-house are cole slaw, freshly cut fries, hush puppies, 4-cheese mac-n-cheese and "simply the world's greatest baked beans." Schafer said the restaurant's rustic, modern decor strives to deliver a feel of the Old South with cedar planks, wood framing and hanging aluminum lanterns, but also remains "dressed and organized." Open view windows place cooks cutting and prepping meats in full view.

Schafer is banking on a couple of tried-and-true business tenets to draw and retain repeat customers.

"Having good quality for a good value is exactly what people in this economy need," he said. "Everyone wants good value. Why not make it easy? For a look at the menu, other locations and more information, visit www.oldcarolina.com

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P.O. Box 2850
North Canton, OH

Phone: (330) 209-0714

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