The Old Base Factory food hall proposed in the Metro East

A former baseball base factory near O’Fallon Sports Park is the proposed site of a new Metro East food hall from brothers Eric and Mike Wallace. The first hearings took place this week on the Wallace brothers’ proposal to develop The Old Base Factory food hall in O’Fallon, Illinois. The project would convert a 12,000-square-foot former tool and die shop on a 2.5-acre lot into an indoor-outdoor dining complex, where visitors to the nearby baseball and soccer fields could grab a bite to eat and families could come to unwind. Here’s a first look at the plans ahead of a prospective spring 2025 opening.

The Backstory

Both brothers have children in O’Fallon schools, and both of their families frequent the sports park. “We’re always looking for a place where we can sit outside after baseball and soccer games,” Mike Wallace says. “We thought it would be really cool to have something nearby.”

They discovered the building at 230 Obernuefemann Road was for sale—and, two weeks later, they had a contract.

The building’s history dovetailed with their concept. It was erected in 1969 by Ray Obernuefemann to house his company, AAA Tool & Machine Co. His sons joined him in the business in the early 1970s. Starting in 1973, AAA Tool & Machine Co. secured a contract to make the metal base assemblies for Major League Baseball—currently totaling more than 60,000 per year. The bases are shipped to Rawlings to install the final padding and logos, and they’re then sold to MLB.

Eric Wallace explained that the bases are changed out twice during games (in the third and sixth innings), and fans can then purchase the game-used bases. He and his brother plan to tie into this legacy with a display of bases and baseball gear, as well as background about the factory itself.

After the elder Obernuefemann’s retirement, his sons sold the business in 2014. The new owner, Brian Wort, formed a second company called Velocity Metal Works. For a while, both companies operated under one roof, but eventually they outgrew the factory and moved to a larger site in Belleville—leaving the building empty.  

“It has a unique history, and we want to preserve that as a part of the food hall’s story,” Eric says.

So far, the Wallaces say, response to the plan has been supportive. “This has always been an industrial site since before it was zoned in the 1960s,” Eric says. The overall structure of the building won’t change, he adds, but the outdoor space will be transformed, with a covered patio, landscaping, and additional parking. They are also working with the City of O’Fallon on traffic flow.

Eric says they hope to receive the city’s approval for planned use in the coming months, with a potential opening date in spring 2025.

The Concept

The brothers plan to utilize the indoor space for seating and a large central bar, with vendors’ kitchens on the periphery. They also plan to add an indoor gaming area. The food hall will connect to the patio via a set of garage-style doors that can be opened on nice days. The additional 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of exterior seating will be pet-friendly, with amenities such as lawn games and perhaps a walkup window for frozen custard.

The Wallaces expect to have popular mainstays such as pizza, specialty burgers, and Tex Mex, but they also know that a variety of cuisines is crucial for a successful food hall. “It’s important to us to find local artisan chefs with a unique concept who are at the right place in their careers for this,” Eric says. “That’s the opportunity that excites me as an entrepreneur.”

Eric has been researching food halls across the country while traveling for work, and he’s familiar with which menus work and which don’t. He believes that offering chefs an infrastructure that’s already in place will make the Old Base Factory concept appealing to “folks who are ready to start something but don’t have the capital to fully fund a startup.” The Wallaces are also actively seeking a general manager for the food hall who knows the restaurant business and can help with recruitment of new kitchens, as well as streamlining processes. (To learn more, contact the Wallaces via LinkedIn.)

The Team

Having solid processes is important to both brothers. Eric has been in the logistics field for more than 30 years; Mike started Definitive Home & Design, a residential construction company, in 2007 and is an authorized dealer for 3 Day Kitchen and Bath, which has perfected a unique method for quick, high-quality remodels.

“Mike and I have a passion for development and many years of experience with residential properties,” Eric says. “We think the food hall is really going to add value to the community, and we’re excited about the potential to help small business owners start a food concept.”

Mike adds that the food hall could also be an opportunity for established restaurants to raise their profiles, especially among out-of-town families and travelers staying at nearby hotels.

While they realize there are risks in the restaurant industry, they’re energized by the possibilities. As Mike says, “Wanting to do something new is part of the entrepreneurial spirit.”

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