The cool story behind Old Carolina Barbecue Company

I love this story. It’s an inspiring story of two friends who left their careers and started what has become a very successful restaurant with five locations. The story contains phrases I love, such as “obsessed for three years,” “limited funding” to launch, and not expanding until there were “lines out the door.” It’s a story about a very smart way to enter a highly volatile, risky industry and come out on top…

“Old Carolina Barbecue Company was formed in 1999 as an idea in the heads of high school friends Brian Bailey and Tim Hug. Brian was a software salesman in the newspaper industry, traveling the country sampling his favorite food, barbecue, at every outpost he could find. Tim was a manager for a fast food franchisee, supervising multiple units in Northeast Ohio. During a lunch at a barbecue joint in St. Louis, Brian had an epiphany: Canton did not have an authentic barbecue restaurant and he and Tim, two Timken Sr. High School graduates and former swim team teammates, needed to open one.

Brian and Tim obsessed for three years trying to find the right way to launch their plan with limited funding. Then, another lightening bolt struck; this one while walking the midway of the 2002 Pro Football Hall of Fame Rib Burnoff. Discussions of restaurants that day with many of the national ‘ribbers’ who were in town selling their fare led Brian and Tim to the realization that a competition barbecue team was the perfect way to raise needed capital while building a recognized brand.

In July 2003, Brian and Tim sold their first ever rib bone at the Akron Family Barbecue on the streets of downtown Akron. The partners had located a mobile smoker in Georgia over the winter and spent six months perfecting their recipes. Old Carolina was an immediate hit. Satisfied customers and competitive judges loved the food and awarded Old Carolina at total of 27 awards in its first 2 ½ years on the bbq circuit. Even the national rib teams that inspired Old Carolina got together present Old Carolina with “Rookie of the Year” honors in 2003.

It wasn’t long before Old Carolina’s loyal customers wanted a permanent restaurant to visit on a regular basis. The answer of “Right here. Right now.” to the question of “Where are you located?” was growing thin. Dining one night at El Rodeo restaurant in Massillon, Brian and his family spotted a “For Lease” sign in the closed space of a former chicken restaurant. This 1800 sq. ft Massillon location became a permanent Old Carolina Barbecue Company outpost in May 2006. Twenty-six seats weren’t enough for the crowds. By the end of the year, lines out the door prompted Old Carolina expansion to a 4250 sq. ft location in the space of a former pizza buffet restaurant. The 110 seat Belden Village location opened in January 2007.”

Brian and Tim, my hat is off to y’all. And being that Wes, Tyler and I all live in N.C., I know we’d love to try your goods one day! And I’m curious if you use Eastern N.C. style of Western N.C. style ‘cue. I’m at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com if you care to share that.

Thanks for your business and your story,