[image-1] Rich Carley, the founder of Charleston Beer Exchange, Brewvival, and Edmund’s Oast, has died. The 37-year-old had a heart attack in his sleep on Tuesday. Scott Shor, owner of Edmund’s Oast restaurant, retail store, and brewery shared the news on Instagram this afternoon.
“It is with the heaviest heart that I share the news of Rich Carley’s passing. For the last twenty years, Rich had been everything from my best friend to my business partner. But really, he was my brother. For all of you that knew him, you knew that he was the funniest, kindest, sweetest and good hearted person you could ask for. For those of you who didn’t, I’m sorry. You really missed out. Nobody could talk about Rich, or even just think about him, without smiling. His innate desire to help others, often with the bonus of comedian level humor, was unparalleled. He made the world around him brighter.
When Rich and I started The Charleston Beer Exchange in 2008, we never really imagined that it would lead to a second shop, a festival, an award winning restaurant, brewery and so much more. Where Edmund’s Oast stands today is largely due to Rich. Even though he exited our business a few years ago to pursue other endeavors, his influence will forever remain a part of all we do professionally and even more so personally. Folks on our staff still remember him as the nice one, the funny one, the kind one… He was. The void left behind in his passing, with all his friends and family, but most especially his wife Caleigh, mother Linda, sister Carolyn and father Rich Sr., will never be filled. There is no replacement for what he was to everyone. There never will be.”
Shor and Carley met exactly 20 years ago when they were both 17 on orientation at Northeastern University in Boston.
“We both dropped out. I dropped out really quickly,” Shor says laughing. But even after they left the school, the two stayed close living as roommates for a time and working at various jobs in Boston. After Shor moved to Charleston, Carley followed a few years later. [image-3]As the Pop the Cap legislative initiative rallied to expand beer production in S.C., Carley and Shor sensed their calling and opened The Charleston Beer Exchange which quickly became the go-to resource for those seeking unique and rare brews.
In 2009, City Paper‘s Scott Goodwin said Carley and Shor “are to beer what the characters of High Fidelity are to the record store.” Goodwin added, “the two saw the lifting of the alcohol cap as both a business opportunity and fulfillment of a dream of sorts.”
“We imagined it was just going be a hobby, so we didn’t quit our day jobs,” Shor recalls.
In 2010, Shor and Carley joined forces with David Merritt and Jaime Tenney of COAST Brewing Co. to launch Brewvival, finally giving Charleston beer lovers a proper festival to celebrate the craft beer. The event evolved into a highly-anticipated venue for beer fans across the region. [image-4] As the fresh-hopped leaders of the local beer community, Shor and Carley saw an opportunity to expand their love of beer beyond the walls of CBX and decided to open a beer-centric restaurant, something entirely new for Charleston where they hoped to brew in-house and offer 40 beers on tap. That vision and a creative menu from opening Executive Chef Andy Henderson led CP critic Robert Moss to write in 2014, “damned if they didn’t actually pull it off.”
A few months later, the restaurant made Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America. Bon Appetit Editor Andrew Knowlton called it a “modern temple to craft beer.”
But Carley’s time at the restaurant was short. Newly engaged, Shor says Carley realized the demanding F&B lifestyle wasn’t what he wanted.
“Retail life is really hard, and restaurant life is harder than that,” says Shor. “He was about to get married. The hours and the life were crazy. We worked a gazzilion hours a week and he wasn’t getting to see his about-to-be new bride.” The partners split on the best of terms. “It had no bearing on our friendship,” says Shor who is still in shock.
“It feels very much unreal. That’s the only reason I’m able to speak is because it doesn’t feel real.”
Edmund’s Oast has since expanded to open Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co., a larger free-standing brewery and restaurant. And last year, Charleston Beer Exchange re-branded and re-opened as Edmund’s Oast Exchange next to the original restaurant.
No funeral services have been announced yet, but Shor says they’re working memorial plans to be announced in the not to distant future.