By Elizabeth Wilkes
From the very beginning, Atlanta INtown has relied on the advertising dollars from local businesses to publish each issue. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we celebrate the local businesses that appeared in our very first issue back in 1994. We’re pleased to see so many of them still going strong.
Atkins Park Restaurant and Bar
794 N Highland Ave.
From humble beginnings as a deli in 1922, Atkins Park has since transformed into a neighborhood favorite with full dining and bar, and is Atlanta’s oldest continuously operating tavern.“There is something here for families, the young, the late night workers, and visitors of our historic neighborhood,” said Sandra Spoon, who started as a server in 1985 and worked her way to her current position as Chief Financial Officer of Atkins, which now includes an additional Smyrna location and Ormsby’s. “If you know the old TV series Cheers, I think that gives the best visual of who we are.” The classic menu offers tried-and-true Southern fare, while increasing offerings of new craft beers and regular menu updates from the executive chef keep Atkins current as a popular and comfortable spot to relax and enjoy a meal.
468 Moreland Ave. NE
Seattle native Betsy Buckley founded Aurora Coffee in 1992 in Virginia-Highland. While that location has since closed, Aurora lives on just down the street in Little Five Points. After starting as a cashier in August 2005, managing partner Mathis Hunter completed a rigorous barista training program, which ensures that the shop continues to maintain its standards for good coffee as the industry continuously changes. Hunter describes Aurora as a totally independent coffee shop run by some of Atlanta’s finest baristas, many of which double as artists, craftsmen, and musicians. “We are the city’s first specialty coffee shop and have been a true neighborhood gathering place since the ‘90s.”
1799 Briarcliff Road NE
Larry Fruhwirth established Camera Bug in 1980, and it soon became a staple for cameras and photo development. After he passed away, longtime friend Tim Nix gained ownership, and has operated the store since 2004. In the midst of the digital camera revolution, Nix opted to shift the focus from film cameras to a new niche: telescopes. Camera Bug carries on today with wide-ranging inventory of telescopes, binoculars, and telescope accessories. “I’m one of the only stocking dealers of telescopes in the Southeast,” said Nix. “I have a whole lot of inventory that is not so neatly arranged, but I can usually find exactly what you need.”
Briarcliff Animal Clinic
1850 Johnson Road NE
When Briarcliff Animal Clinic was founded in 1959, Dr. Peter J. Muller Sr. lived on the premises with his wife, Peggy. As the hospital grew, his son, Dr. Peter J. Muller III, joined the practice, and still heads it today. The practice also expanded to locations in Sandy Springs and College Park. “Our doctors are constantly educating themselves on the latest in veterinary medicine,” said Catherine Muller. “We have always been on the cutting edge with technology that you typically only see in human medical facilities.” Accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, the clinic is open 24/7 for emergencies in addition to providing regular veterinary care, with several vets certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.
2882 N. Druid Hills Road
Previously known as Briarcliff Paint and Wallcovering, the store on North Druid Hills has carried Benjamin Moore paints since Jim Brown opened its doors in 1978. A longtime friend of Brown, David Caler, has operated Briarcliff Paint for over a decade, after gaining ownership in 2003. Caler decided to drop flooring and wallcovering to focus on what has always drawn customers to the store – paints and stains. “People want Benjamin Moore because they want quality,” said Caler. “We always provide quality service to make sure you get the right paint for the right project.” Briarcliff Paint continues to cater to homeowners and small contractors alike looking for quality product and trusted service in the neighborhood.
1830 Cheshire Bridge Road
Thirty-five years ago, Anthony Pernice moved from New York City to Atlanta in hopes of starting a business. Flora Dora began in a flea market, which led to a retail spot on Amsterdam Avenue before moving to its current home on Cheshire Bridge Road. “As the city grew, my business grew,” said Pernice. “We are the top silk floral company in Atlanta, with a unique store offering accessories, home décor, and original art from local artists.” Flora Dora customizes every flower, shrub, and tree for its broad range of clients: interior designers, businesses like Macy’s and Crate & Barrel to Agnes Scott College and City Hall, and increasingly, the film industry.
1041 N. Highland Ave. NE
George’s Restaurant is famous for its burgers, but it wasn’t always that way. George Najour established a deli and grocery in his name in 1961. His son, G.G. Najour, started working at George’s part-time in college, and he’s been there ever since, taking over as owner-operator in 1991 so his father could retire. “In the early 1980’s, I changed the place from a deli to a full restaurant,” said G.G. “From the beginning, we wanted to have excellent burgers.” While the menu has expanded over the years, the most popular item is still burgers – traditional beef, and now turkey, veggie, black bean, and lamb burgers, too.
807 Church St.
Since 1991, Druid Hills native Warner McConaughey and his team have been providing Atlantans with premier design-build service. From the beginning, HammerSmith, Inc. has been about designing to please the client. Every job is different for the architecture and renovation firm, taking into account each homeowner’s unique needs and interests – there isn’t a ‘HammerSmith house.’ “We’ve never had a showroom, because our business is not about products,” McConaughey said. “The first thing we talk about with clients is their lifestyle – what problems they are facing, and how we can fix them.” HammerSmith continues to work on homes in neighborhoods around Atlanta, ranging in style from traditional to contemporary.
2120 Plaster Bridge Road
Bill Bartlett purchased the small home remodeling company founded by Diane Stephenson in 1989. Over the past 25 years, it has grown to be one of Atlanta’s largest renovation firms building a reputation for quality remodeling with its team of in-house architects, designers and construction team. In the early years, the business primarily helped Intown homeowners who were desperate for reliable help in preserving their older homes. “Today we work with people who tend to be more focused on design and are more savvy about trends and have an increased interest in their home’s value,” Bartlett said. “We have tried to stay true to our original mantra, generating creative projects with quality construction while having fun.” In 2002, the company opened its handyman division, DogGoneHandy to meet the demands of previous clients looking for help with home maintenance.
Intown Ace Hardware
854 N. Highland Ave. NE
After buying the store with their combined life savings, Intown Hardware was founded in 1979 by brothers Doug and Joe Eifrid. Upon seeing initial success, the brothers moved to the N. Highland Avenue location in August 1981, and decided to call it “Intown Hardware,” since at the time the area was not considered Downtown, Midtown or Uptown. As the “Intown” name stuck and the area grew, so did the store – its sales more than doubling for several years. Joe decided to build a new store from the ground up in Decatur in 1984, splitting the company in the process. To this day, the ownership remains in the family. Doug still operates the Highland store along with his sister. Both stores use the Ace Hardware buying cooperative while maintaining their established place in the community for over 30 years.
Multiple Locations around Atlanta
Thirty years ago, two Georgia Tech students started what is now the iconic Mellow Mushroom pizza. The first store opened in 1974 out of an old liquor store on Spring Street. Their attempt at perfecting pizza became so popular that they opened up new locations around Atlanta, and began franchising in the 1980’s to employees and customers. Atlanta artist Buddy Finethy is responsible for creating the colorful mushroom characters that adorn restaurant menus and décor. The visuals remained largely unchanged since its inception until 2011, when Finethy himself redesigned the logo with “Mel O. Mushroom” holding a slice of pizza. While the restaurant continues to open new franchises annually, Atlanta is still Mellow Mushroom’s hometown, with locations in Buckhead and Midtown and nearly at dozens others in the metro Atlanta area.
997 Virginia Ave. NE
Tom Murphy opened Murphy’s on Dec.1, 1980, modeled on his favorite New York City delicatessens. A deli counter used to stand where the bar is today, as Murphy’s became a Virginia-Highland cornerstone for American comfort food. “We have always been committed to offering the freshest food available, at a value,” said Murphy. “Purchasing from local produce vendors, rather than big suppliers, made the most sense as far as value and quality were concerned. Murphy’s has become a supporter of community endeavors like Project Open Hand and the school garden at Morningside Elementary School. Murphy’s continues to offer its popular weekend brunch, along with a bakery and wine shop.
Oriental Designer Rugs
1250-B Menlo Drive NW
A family affair from the beginning, the Golchha family started producing handmade rugs in India in 1973. Oriental Designer Rugs was established in New York City in 1984, with the Golchha’s importing rugs from their home country. Ten years later, the company set up a showroom in Atlanta and permanently relocated to Amsterdam Avenue when the Olympics came to town.This year marks the family’s 30th in business, and founder Benny Golchha, at nearly 70, is still active in operations along with his son, Vineet, who joined the company in 1998, and Renu Giri, who joined in 1990. The team continues to cover all aspects of handmade oriental rugs, from design and production to import and retail, at their new location in the West Midtown design district.
Re/Max “The Intowners”
1189 S. Ponce de Leon Ave. NE
Peter Bade moved from New York to Atlanta for college more than 30 years ago and has never considered leaving since. “Intown is an awesome, easy place to live, with everything at your fingertips,” said Bade, who has loved the community since purchasing a 1920’s home near Piedmont Park in 1979. He obtained his real estate license soon after, graduating from Georgia State with a master’s in historic preservation. Along with developing his real estate reputation, Bade has been continually involved in preserving the history and green spaces of Atlanta, with his work with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association in restoring area parks. Today, Bade is based in Midtown and merged with Julie Sadlier and Sandy D’Aprile to collectively form “The Intowners” team of award-winning realtors with Re/Max.
San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co.
1192 N. Highland Ave.
Doug Bond opened San Francisco Coffee Roasting Company in 1994 in Virginia-Highland when coffee in Atlanta was in its infancy. Getting your morning cup of joe or latte was not so convenient then. He brought the classic neighborhood coffeehouse, with its casual San Francisco style, to the city. There are now three locations around Intown. With their onsite coffee roaster in Virginia-Highland, you can literally smell the coffee in the air if you happen to be in the neighborhood. While there have been many changes in the coffee industry over the years, the coffeehouse remains a neighborhood fixture Bond said: “We have been told many times over the years, ‘don’t change a thing!”
Highland Pet Supply
1186 N. Highland Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30306
For 20 years, Highland Pet Supply has been providing food, toys, dog washing and more for the community from its retail store in Virginia-Highland. Dog training was originally taught in the parking lot, but moved to its own facility in the mid-90s at Amsterdam Walk before moving into a brand new training center on Rankin Street. Owners Ian Awbrey and Toni Barry said dogs and their humans can be taught leash control, basic commands and there are also private training sessions and a “puppy primer” for dogs under 4 months old.
Ten Thousand Villages
1056 St. Charles Ave.
Back in 1994, Ten Thousand Villages was called Windows on the World, but the Virginia-Highland fair trade retailer’s mission remains the same: establishing long-term buying relationships where skilled artisans from around the globe lack opportunities for stable income. Two friends, Marg Lambert and Karen Gross, started the Virginia-Highland store in 1993. Gross, a nurse practitioner, and Lambert, a grade school teacher, were moved to take action after learning about children living in the Guatemala City Dump. The duo’s creative energy continues to operate the store today, along with a very active board of directors. The store hosts Nonprofit Shopping Nights in November and December which give sales to artisans but also gives a small percentage back to local nonprofits in Atlanta.
Engel & Volkers
1411 N. Highland Ave.
Engel & Volkers was originally know as 14 West when it started in 1973. Scott Askew acquired the real estate company in 1995, and he sought to maintain 14 West as the “neighborhood shop” for those looking to buy and sell homes in the area. Askew said as Intown’s neighborhoods began to diversify, he noticed more of his clients were Dutch, British, Chinese and German. When he was approached by Engel & Volkers, Askew jumped at the opportunity to become “part of a true international real estate company,” which has more 500 offices outside US. Askew’s firm was the first from Georgia to join Engel & Volkers this past April. “It’s been very good for us,” Askew said. “We’re seeing more people wanting to buy Intown because of amenities like restaurants, shops, the BeltLine and wanting to park their cars and be able to walk. It’s very exciting.”
500 Amsterdam Ave.
Owners Harris and Gerri Botnick has been a passion project for its owners for 20 years with the first shop opening on Amsterdam Walk in 1994 and a second in Decatur in 2008. The Botnicks said their clientele started out purchasing simple silver bands and return whenever there is another occasion – an engagement, commitment ceremony, marriage birthday or holiday. The shop also does repairs and offers appraisals.
Additional reporting for this article provided by Collin Kelley, Sydia Bell and David Burleson.