It Just Might Work: Marty Kotis’ big switch

Corey McAdams presents a glass of Pineapple con Verdito, a sweet and refreshing drink with a powerful kick — one of three drinks on the Marshall Free House’s mocktail menu.

Marty Kotis, Greensboro developer, entrepreneur, restaurateur and Boss Hogg of the district he’s named Midtown, announced over the weekend that he’ll be shuttering his Marshall Free House after about two years in operation. The restaurant itself lasted almost exactly as long as the build-up, which began in February 2012 when Kotis told Triad Business Journal reporter Katie Arcieri about plans for his “British gastropub” in the as-yet-to-be-named district.

The new place, according to a press release, will be called Farmer’s Realm, a farm-to-fork concept that has long been the specialty of Chef Jay Pierce, who came on last year, and Bart Ortiz, who worked in the Quaintance-Weaver organization before leaving to head Kotis’ restaurant group. Powerhouse bartender Mark Weddle will continue his innovations behind the bar, only he won’t have to wear a kilt while he’s doing it.

Marty’s financial and emotional investment in the Marshall Free notwithstanding — he traveled throughout the British Isles for like six weeks while formulating this concept, established a relationship with one of Scotland’s oldest whisky dealers and placed the single largest liquor order in Greensboro ABC board history — it looks like a good move to me, because it follows a paradigm being used successfully just down the road in Winston-Salem.

It all starts with capital. As the Camel City built up towards its current renaissance, capital flowed to people with talent and vision, who were then enabled to manifest their ideas relatively unfettered. That led to the resurgence of the Arts District and the business empire of John Bryan, which started with Krankies and has laid deep roots in the city’s culture over 20 years.

When Kotis hired Pierce, a chef of note in North Carolina who had been working a modern concept at Rocksalt in Charlotte, to remake the Marshall Free House’s British-themed menu, he was doing the exact opposite.

Now, though, it looks like he’s getting the square pegs in the square holes.

I’ve seen what Pierce, Ortiz and Weddle can do when they spread their wings. I can only imagine what they’ll accomplish together.