The Big Orange Hoagie Factory seeks to bring a taste of Philadelphia to Marion.

And this latest eatery also aims to bring new life to an iconic and historic building in the center of the downtown.

The Big Orange Hoagie Factory will open in the old Hotel James located at 8 N. Main St. This new eatery will offer hoagies at first and then later the cheese steaks that have become synonymous with the Philadelphia area.

Creed Burleson is a native of Marion but he’s lived for years in Philadelphia and other places. He is the owner of not only the Big Orange Hoagie Factory but the old Hotel James building as well.

“I want to bring south Philly hoagies to Marion, N.C.,” said Burleson.

He is planning for a soft opening Monday and Tuesday with a formal grand opening at a later date.

Burleson said to The McDowell News that the name "Big Orange Hoagie Factory" was something he made up. He said "big" refers to his big sandwiches and "orange" is a bold color that you can't miss.

His new eatery will first offer hoagies, which is what people in the City of Brotherly Love call a sub sandwich. Some of the ingredients will include ham, turkey ham, corned beef, roast beef, pepper beef, pepperoni, turkey, prosciutto, honey turkey, smoked turkey, roast pork, tuna, tuna with cheese, Italian tuna and a variety of cheeses. Burleson plans to offer 20 different styles of hoagie sandwiches.

The hoagie shop for Marion will be located in the rear section of the building while the dining area will be upfront. In Philly, hoagie shops are not usually sit-down-type restaurants but more of a place where you grab a sandwich on the go, said Burleson.

The meat, mostly Italian types, will be freshly sliced right in front of you. Five or six different types of cheeses will be available.

The Big Orange Hoagie Factory will have chips, pretzels and other side items to go with your sandwich. Burleson said he wants to install an old-fashioned Pepsi-Cola chest where you can get your soft drinks in a glass bottle. A Coca-Cola fountain machine will also be there.

Later, he plans to offer hot sandwiches like the popular cheese steaks.

“Every week, we will have a different special sandwich,” said Burleson.

Anyone from Philadelphia can tell you that what sets the hoagies and cheese steaks there apart from other sandwiches is the bread. It is not like bread available in other places and it can only be found in the Philadelphia or the nearby south New Jersey area. Burleson said his bread will come from Liscio’s Bakery, a company in Glassboro, N.J. that has been baking breads, rolls, pastries and cakes since 1994.

“The bread is what makes it special,” said Burleson. “It has to be from south Philly or New Jersey. I believe in keeping it simple and that’s what we are working on.”

The Big Orange Hoagie Factory will be a part of Marion’s “North Block.” This block already has such popular places as Burrito Bros., Refinery 13, the Crooked Door Coffee House, Sun Kissed Tanning and Mica Town Brewing. Like all of these businesses, the new hoagie shop has a sign made by Turtle Laboratories.

It will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10:30 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Burleson was born at the Marion General Hospital but he’s lived a lot of different places. When he was a boy, his dad was stationed at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J. and the family moved around since his dad was in the Navy.

As an adult, Burleson has worked in the hotel and restaurant industries. He said he has a degree in hotel/restaurant management and has been a Web designer for numerous eateries in the south Philly area.

He has worked for numerous chains like Marriott, Holiday Inn, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King along with some eateries that were locally owned in their respective cities.

In mid-January, Burleson took ownership of the old Hotel James building from the previous owners Dogan “Don” Altuner and his wife Kathy. Not long after that, Earth and Soul Studio opened in one section of the building followed by Blooming Iris florist shop in another storefront. He hopes to bring more life to this historic and iconic building in the heart of downtown Marion.

The old Hotel James sits at the corner of North Main and East Court streets. For many years, it was one of the finest places to stay and eat in McDowell County, if not all of western North Carolina.

Built in 1910 as the Marianna Hotel, this multi-level brick structure offered lots of rooms and a top-quality restaurant typical of the finer inns of the era. The famous author Sinclair Lewis stayed there when he came to Marion to write about the bloody strike at Marion Manufacturing. The hotel with its bay windows and graceful front porch quickly became a Marion landmark.

In later years, it became known as the Hotel James, and this is the name that is most familiar to local folks today. After the hotel closed, the building became the home of Johnson’s Book Store. The lower level along courthouse hill was once the home of a taxicab business and a barber’s shop.

In more recent years, the bay windows, the front porch and the decorative railing along the rooftop were all removed and the building lost much of its charm. Many of the windows were covered over.

The last eatery to be located in this structure was Carolina Chocolatiers.

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