Sep 6, 2023 - Business

The rise, fall and rebrand of Heirloom, once one of Charlotte’s best restaurants

Heirloom

Heirloom Restaurant in Belmont. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Heirloom, known for its forage-to-table menus and locally sourced ingredients, is no longer operating as the restaurant it once was.

Owner Patrick Murphy hopes to keep the Heirloom legacy alive, however, in a new form. “Heirloom is not closed or going away. We’re just pivoting into a more universal direction where we can have more of a reach,” Murphy says.

What’s happening: Heirloom is now a catering service and event space for private events, special events and potentially cooking classes in the future. The last night to dine in at Heirloom was Sept. 2. 

  • Starting Thursday, Sept. 7, Heirloom’s sister restaurant, the popular Belmont brunch spot Honeycomb Cafe, will start serving nighttime bar bites. In October, Murphy and Heirloom sous chef Jeremy Albertson will unveil a small plate dinner menu at Honeycomb, inspired by Heirloom.
  • Separately, Murphy opened a new gelato shop called Bumblebee Creamery in downtown Belmont last week. 

Why it matters: Heirloom, which opened in 2014 and moved to the town of Belmont under new ownership in 2021, was once heralded as one of Charlotte’s best restaurants. But a combination of factors, like inflation, cost of service, and other problems brought on by the pandemic, ultimately led to the decision to change things up.

“We moved to Belmont with [the hopes] things would get back on track … inflation, cost of goods, etc., and that really didn’t happen,” Murphy said. “In some cases, they got worse.”

[Related Axios story: Restaurants Charlotte lost in 2022]

Flashback: Former Heirloom executive chef Clark Barlowe opened Heirloom at 8470 Bellhaven Blvd., in the Coulwood neighborhood in west Charlotte, with ingredients from more than 70 area farmers and producers, a daily rotating 12-course tasting menu and a personal touch. Barlowe would forage wild mushrooms himself, then cook them at the restaurant. 

At dinner, he’d walk customers through details about each ingredient they were eating. 

  • Two years later, local restaurateur Frank Scibelli — owner of Mama Ricotta’s, Yafo Kitchen, Midwood Smokehouse and Calle Sol — bought into the award-winning restaurant. Barlowe and Scibelli worked together to make the menu a bit more accessible by adding dishes like fried chicken and a burger and removing a few of the courses from the tasting menu. 
  • “The experience of dining at Heirloom is different — and remarkable,” Axios’ Ted Williams wrote in 2017, touting the place as “easily a top 5 Charlotte restaurant.” 

Zoom out: In recent years, a growing number of farm-to-table restaurants have opened in and around Charlotte, from Flour Shop at Park Road Shopping Center to Kindred in Davidson.

  • In 2019, Barlowe sold Heirloom to Murphy and his family. And, like many businesses, it closed in 2020.
  • The Murphys reopened the restaurant in downtown Belmont in 2021.

What he’s saying: “Belmont itself is obviously progressing and growing, but for what Heirloom is, it’s definitely a more city-oriented restaurant,” Murphy says.

The bottom line: Murphy recognizes that there are a lot of factors that led to the decision to change Heirloom’s business model — inflation, rising cost of service, a post-COVID world, and the restaurant’s new location. To put it simply, the numbers were not adding up.

What’s next: Once Honeycomb Cafe opens for dinner service in October, its hours of operation will extend as well. It’ll open Wednesday-Saturday 9am-2pm for breakfast, brunch and lunch, and 5-10pm for dinner.

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