David Abes didn’t always plan to be in the restaurant business.
In fact, the mind behind the new, upcoming entertainment complex in Dunwoody Village started out in a very different, much less flashy lane – accounting.
“Originally I wanted to be an accountant,” Abes, who now owns Dash Hospitality Group, said. “I worked in an accounting firm, and I was so bored. Like, this isn’t for me.”
Following that slight detour, the Dunwoody native swerved into the restaurant and hospitality business, where he’s remained for about 30 years. After getting his degree from Arizona State University, he moved back to Atlanta in 1991. He served as the general manager of the Atlanta Fish Market during the 1996 Olympic Games, and then served as the director of operations for the ownership group Here to Serve Restaurants for 14 years, helping to grow the company from three to 14 restaurants.
He then held the role of COO for Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, but in 2018, Abes decided to go his own way and started Dash.
“Starting Dash Hospitality Group has really been incredible for me,” he said. “Being an owner, and the team that I have involved, taking care of our clients, [is] just so rewarding.”
Abes said what really drew him back to the restaurant industry after that attempt at accounting was the energy. If accounting was boring, running a restaurant was the exact opposite.
“It’s a business, but it’s really about making it all work,” he said. “It’s almost like a game in a sense, where you get so excited when you’re doing a great job, people are smiling, having a good time. It’s like that energy – I just love the energy about the restaurant business.”
That energy is partly why he got the idea to create an entertainment complex in the center of Dunwoody Village, a shopping and retail center at 1317 Dunwoody Village Parkway. The complex will be located at an open courtyard in the village, sitting next to a Fresh Market at 5515 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.
Abes said he was inspired by a project he consulted on in Florida, The Hub 30a in Watersound Beach.
“You look at downtown Roswell, Woodstock, Alpharetta – everybody has their city centers, and Dunwoody just didn’t have that entertainment center,” Abes said. “My wife and I were literally standing in Dunwoody Village, and I said, ‘You know what this would be a perfect spot for a mini Hub.’”
Abes said the process started about two and half years ago when he presented the idea to the real estate investment company Regency Centers, which owns Dunwoody Village. When Regency reacted positively, he brought the idea to the city.
“They were super excited about it,” he said. “It was all going. And then here comes COVID.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, Abes put the project on pause. But more than a year later, construction is already underway for the first phase of the project. The plan calls for a total transformation of the space, including four new restaurants, a bar, an outdoor stage, and enough seating and space to host concerts, festivals and the like. Abes said the first part of his vision – Bar(n), a rustic community bar serving wine, craft beer, and whiskey – is expected to be completed this October. The food menu will include light bites, like charcuterie, and on weekends, Bar(n) will also serve coffee and pastries.
“We’re excited that [Abes] is moving forward with his first restaurant,” said Dunwoody Economic Development Director Michael Starling. “The groundbreaking for Bar(n) is a big first step. We look forward to future developments – not only in the courtyard, but in other areas of the Village.”
Patrons can also expect a food truck to appear in the Village around mid-October. Two future restaurants in Abes’ plan – Morty’s Meat Supply and Cuco’s Cantina – will start out serving from a truck. The barbecue and Mexican street food joints are expected to open physical locations in 2022.
Later on down the line, two more restaurants will join the scene – Yoffi, which will offer fresh, Mediterranean street food, and Message in a Bottle, a classy seafood joint. Both Yoffi and Message in a Bottle are expected to open in the fall of 2022.
Abes said feedback from Dunwoody residents has been mostly positive.
“The positive feedback has been tremendous,” he said. “That’s what they want. They want something they can walk to. It’s all about the community.”