The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Founder talks $20M investment in Ballantyne, Mount Holly and Cornelius

By Jennifer Thomas – Senior Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal


The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s John Marrino expects to invest $20 million into three locations over the next three years. The OMB founder says it’s all part of a strategy the Charlotte-based brewery adopted in 2016.

Given the region’s fast growth, it made sense to expand its brauhaus, biergarten and taproom concept into the market versus solely expecting people to travel to its flagship brewery in South End. Marrino identified and secured sites for locations in Ballantyne, Mount Holly and Cornelius.

The first — its 14,000-square-foot location at The Bowl at Ballantyne — is on track to celebrate its grand opening the weekend of June 1. The Ballantyne space will have 7,000 square feet of patio dining, a second-floor mezzanine and a 1-acre biergarten.

“This is still OMB. It just has a little different vibe,” says Jim Birch, chief operating officer. “We’re really hoping there are people who tried us years ago and this gives them an opportunity to try us again.”

Finishing touches include the installation of signature, two-story chandeliers just inside the entrance and furnishings across the board. Carolina Urban Lumber is behind the custom ash wood wall, which is a focal point spanning two floors. That wood is also used in the 40-foot-long main bar, which will feature four copper towers with tap handles. The space is filled with light to create an indoor-outdoor vibe.

The kitchen has been designed with extra capacity for prep and to accommodate high volume.

A second-level mezzanine, complete with an outdoor balcony with a lounge area and stand-up tables, can accommodate private events.

It overlooks the biergarten, where 50-plus mature trees have been planted and at least seven truckloads of New England river rock have been spread. In the biergarten, 160 sets of tables and benches, Adirondack chairs for the fire pit and string lights are being installed.

Birch says he expects the location to have a local draw, given Charlotte’s fast growth. Multiple spaces make it possible to host a celebration for a kid’s baseball team, a wedding rehearsal dinner and corporate events, all at the same time.

Marrino declined to share costs for the Ballantyne project, saying expenses are easily 30% over what he anticipated.

“We still feel it makes sense,” he says. “I still believe in the strategy we outlined in 2016. I keep coming back to the conclusion we’re doing the right thing.”

OMB has been a staple in Charlotte since opening in 2009. It produced just under 20,000 barrels in 2023 and expects that to increase by as much as 15% when Ballantyne comes online.

Marrino says design work on the Mount Holly facility should wrap in this fall, with construction starting by the end of the year. That means an opening should happen in late 2025 or early 2026.

“It’s going to be a smaller footprint with the ability to grow,” Birch says.

As part of a deal with Mount Holly, OMB purchased a roughly 2-acre parcel at 725 Elm St. for $200,000. It has since demolished the former water-treatment plant on that site.

It committed to building a facility of at least a 5,000 square feet. The biergarten will overlook the Catawba River where Dutchman’s Creek joins.

In Cornelius, a project was first announced in February 2017, with the purchase of a 24-acre wooded site on Zion Avenue for about $3 million. That site houses a 51,000-square-foot facility that previously had been used for manufacturing.

“We changed the whole plan,” Marrino says.

Now, OMB’s Cornelius project will coincide with Northwood Ravin's planned Greenway Gartens development that is on track to open in the second half of 2027.

New locations provide an opportunity to grow wholesale sales. Marrino anticipates approximately two-thirds of OMB’s sales will be retail, with the remainder coming from wholesale. Sites such as Ballantyne, Mount Holly and Cornelius locations will be key to introducing more people to the OMB brand, and in turn, driving sales at grocery stores and at restaurants and bars.

“More and more people are coming around to craft beer,” Marrino says. “You’ve got to get them to try it.”

That’s key as the craft beer industry faces some fallout amid economic uncertainty. Charlotte has seen a number of closings — Weathered Souls in lower South End, Midnight Mulligan in Wesley Heights and The DreamChaser’s Brewery in Waxhaw. D9 has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Marrino cites labor costs, costs of goods and the expiration of leases — and potential for increasing lease costs as challenges facing the local market. “The craft beer industry is going to go through a tough period,” he says.

Marrino says OMB’s goal is to be viable as both a retail and wholesale operation.

Redline Design is the architect on all three projects. Roby is the general contractor on Ballantyne.


This article was originally posted in the Charlotte Business Journal.