By Katie Fallon
A symbol of fun times in Sandy Springs has now closed its doors for good.
American Pie, the archetypal restaurant and bar that served as a prime weekend party spot in Sandy Springs for 21 years, closed on Nov. 30.
Located within a literal stone’s throw of I-285 on Roswell Road, American Pie served as a haven for other soldiers in the hospitality trenches, a well known team trivia locale and the go-to spot for local radio station parties, especially if they included bikini-clad women during the warmer months of the year.
Citing slow business and a decrease in liquor sales from an abbreviated, city-mandated “last call,” owner Richard Tyre said that, after 21 years, it is just time to move on from American Pie. Tyre took over the lease on the roughly 7,000 square foot facility in 1986 and has been the only owner since then.
Tyre said that while changes in the community that came after the incorporation of Sandy Springs may have contributed to the loss in revenue, he respects both city leadership and what they’ve done to change the community for the better.
“When Sandy Springs became a city, the liquor laws changed. From unincorporated Fulton, it went from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. for last call. We lost a couple hours and that hurt,” Tyre said. “The flip side of that is I certainly understand the city council and the mayor wanting to make some of those changes in liquor laws. For us, it was painful. It did decrease our sales substantially. The other side is the council invited us to some of their meetings in reference to liquor laws. I found them to be extremely receptive.”
Though business as a whole has slowed over the past couple of years, Tyre calls American Pie’s success “an incredible run for this type of business.” He said he considers himself lucky that more aspects of his business were not uprooted when control over Sandy Springs switched hands from Fulton County to the new city government two years ago.
“I have nothing but praise for the City of Sandy Springs and the things that they’re doing. In our business, you hear a lot of complaints about rolling back the hours and hurting business, but I can certainly understand their point,” Tyre said. “We’ve had a great relationship with the City of Sandy Springs…the mayor, the City Council and the police department.”
Back when Tyre took over the building following its former occupation by a steakhouse, he said his theme for the restaurant came on the heels of the end of the 1970’s and the disco era.
“I think that at that point, the legal drinking age had changed from 21 to 18 years of age and the so-called dance clubs from back in the disco days were becoming a thing of the past,” the owner said. “They catered to a young market so with American Pie, we knew ‘boy meets girl’ was still a popular theme. Dancing was still popular. We tried to create something so we could marry the food end of the operation with the bar end and late night. We were successful in doing that.”
Tyre admits he spent a large amount of money on marketing over the years to draw people to American Pie and make it an icon for having fun in Sandy Springs. He said there were a few factors that combined to make he establishment a success for almost two decades.
First, he said location was key. Because American Pie was located right off I-285, it was not landlocked, which made for an easy entrance and exit for customers. That accessibility was especially important before one major, local highway was expanded.
“Another thing in our early years when GA-400 was just a four-lane road, to get from Buckhead to Roswell, you’d come up Roswell Road. We catered to a lot of that traffic.”
Because both the restaurant and the bar were always open on Sundays, American Pie also became the place to go for fellow servers, bartenders, kitchen staff and other hospitality veterans.
“That was the thing,” said former waitress-turned-controller Tammy Griggs. “You always came down here to Roswell Road or Buckhead. A lot of bars weren’t open on Sundays and that’s what made the Pie the place to be on Sundays. That became our industry night.”
Tyre said his staff got the word about closing about two and a half weeks before the last night. Some employees who were with American Pie for 18 years, he said, had noticed the decline in sales and business so were not completely caught off guard by the announcement. Most staff, he said, will likely remain in the restaurant or bar business and move on to other establishments.
In fact, the weeks prior to the Nov. 30 closing included signs the end of an era was indeed coming. During lunch service on Monday, Nov. 19, American Pie sold its last hamburger, one of its most popular menu items. Leading up to the closing, Tyre said they simply did not order more food as the restaurant and bar was winding down its inventory.
Though his American Pie venture was an overall success, Tyre he does not plan to open another restaurant or recreate the American Pie atmosphere elsewhere.
“No, I’m finished,” he said. “I’m primarily a hotel developer and that’s the main source of income. I’m just going to try to go out and build some additional hotels.”
Tyre, who merely leased the building from property owner John Izard, said while he believes the area around American Pie will eventually be redeveloped, he does believe another bar or restaurant could bring success to the spot again.
“We leaned more towards the beverage end of it than the food end of it,” Tyre said. “If someone came in with a strong operation and an owner that’s going to be on premise, it could work.”
While some loyal customers bemoaned the closing, Tyre said he wanted to go out with no farewell festivities and simply fade quietly into the night.