By John Schaffner
Seven sons and old-time business leaders of Buckhead gathered around a table at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 26 at the nontraditional, high-end, white-tablecloth McDonald’s at 2929 Peachtree Road for coffee and breakfast as they have for decades.
But this day was special for the group. It marked the formal dedication of their McDonald’s VIP Coffee Club and the presentation of a plaque honoring the group and another designating a table as their gathering spot, and each left with his own VIP Coffee Club mug.
Fewer than half of those who had met under the golden arches for those decades were able to attend the event, at which McDonald’s Buckhead owner/operator Carrie Salone spoke of honoring the “builders of the Buckhead business community as our loyal patrons who meet here at McDonald’s every morning — the gathering place for business, fellowship and community.”
“Like the Buckhead Business Association, which was founded in 1951, you all have seen a metamorphosis of Buckhead,” said Elizabeth Gill, the president of the BBA. “This group represents the foundation of that growth. For that, we thank you.”
One of the club’s founders, Hallman Dodd, and Sam Massell, the president of the Buckhead Coalition and the unofficial mayor of Buckhead, had a few words for the group and those newcomer leaders who were there to share in the moment, including City Councilwoman Mary Norwood of Buckhead.
Dodd, a principal of the Hallman Dodd & Associates insurance agency, commented on his longtime relationship with Massell.
“The first real estate investment I ever made I joined with Sam. This was a big, big real estate investment 60-something years ago. I never really forgave him, because the price didn’t go up, it just went down, down, down,” he said.
“I have been coming in here for years and years,” Dodd said, explaining he had an office at 2970 Peachtree back in the 1970s. “We came over here just about every day back then.”
Massell described himself as “sort of an interloper with this group. I am sort of a newcomer, although my children were raised on McDonald’s, and they turned out pretty well.”
Accepting the plaque on behalf of the group, Massell said: “When I was at City Hall, I got a lot of plaques. They would ask my secretary, ‘How do we get in to see him?’ She would say, ‘Bring a plaque and have a pretty girl present it.’ ”
Noting the presentation by Salone, he added, “That is what happened again this morning.”
In addition to Dodd and Massell, those attending ceremony were Ed Hyland, retired owner of a box company in Buckhead; Frank Maier, a retired jeweler who had eight stores in the Atlanta area and used to ride his bike in Buckhead before traffic overwhelmed the streets; Dick Meyers, an electrical engineer who designed the electrical systems for facilities such as the Shepherd Center; Perry Raulet, a retired agent for a high-end furniture manufacturer; and Andre White, the youngest member, who publishes the Sentinel Bulletin newspaper in DeKalb County and has a radio show, “Andre Wright Talks,” on 860 AM.
Among the emeritus members of the group who did not make the event were Sam Inman, a former resident of the Swan House, adjacent to the Atlanta History Center, who with his family ran a highway and infrastructure construction company that built I-85 and I-285; Charlie Currie, an insurance agent; Jim Funk, a doctor who started Peachtree Orthopedic (now with 30-plus doctors) who died two months ago; Fred Lockwood, who ran a carpet business; Lee Morrison, who started a specialty advertising agency; Tom Murray, who ran a family-owned Buckhead hardware store for 70 years and is now dead; Mason Whitney, who was a prominent real estate agent; and Charlie Woodall, who ran four or five businesses, including a wholesale nursery.