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A native of Athens, Georgia, James Bazzelle, along with his wife, Renee’, are the owners of Mert’s Heart and Soul, one of Charlotte, North Carolina’s finest restaurants.

James discovered his culinary talent in high school and after graduating, decided to pursue it further at the Vocational College of Athens, where he earned an Associate’s Degree in Food Service Management. After college, James held various positions in the food service industry throughout Georgia, including the city of Carrollton where he met Renee’ in 1979.

An entrepreneur at heart, James relocated his family to Charlotte in 1991 and began a catering company called Ga. Catering. James later held the position of Executive Chef at the Holiday Inn and quickly learned the Charlotte restaurant industry. In 1996, James and Renee’ opened Ga. On Tryon, one of the few restaurants located in downtown Charlotte at the time. Following this venture and a chance meeting with a key Bank of America executive, James moved on to open Mert’s Heart and Soul in 1998, currently located on 214 North College Street.

Since opening, Mert’s has emerged as one of Charlotte’s top restaurants and is frequently acclaimed by restaurant reviewers, Charlotteans, and visitors to the Queen City. Mert’s distinguishes itself from traditional soul food restaurants by offering Low Country and Gullah-inspired dishes such as shrimp and grits, Charleston red rice, and award-winning macaroni and cheese.

James and Renee’ reside in Charlotte, North Carolina with their children and grandchildren and are very active in the local community.


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