Lighting the Way

Avondale Estates 29th Annual Christmas Tour of Lights and Holiday Market Shines


IN A YEAR that began with loss and change, the tradition of light and hope continues in Avondale Estates long-running Christmas Tour of Lights and Holiday Market.

For 2021, 12 homes representing the various styles of architecture in the city will be featured, including three of the 1926 “Avondale Originals.” One has been transformed into a gingerbread house, another boasts a red carpet leading through Christmas trees to the home flanked by six-foot nutcrackers and lit by an oversized “Joy,” and a third is decorated with crazy Christmas creatures out front. Other homes will feature blow ups and displays from sophisticated to fun with just a touch of tacky.

Trees along Berkeley Road will light the way to three more homes including a Craftsman built in 2016 decorated with wreaths, lights and seasonal greenery; a 1950s ranch with lights on the roof and trees, and stars and a Christmas gnome out front; and a 1951 modified ranch decorated in a very traditional manner with lush greenery and large red bows.

The magic continues at a magnificent showplace on Hess Drive where one of the largest homes in Avondale built in 1964 is displayed, and the decorations on Nottingham Drive will be a surprise built with thousands of lights.

In addition to the featured homes, the city will be lit up along every street in the Avondale Estates Business District and in the plazas around town. See the floating Christmas tree on Avondale Lake and visit Santa at the Avondale Community Club.


The in-person Avondale Holiday Market is back. Community-builder Constellation Energy is sponsoring these beloved artists selling their hand-knitted scarves, pecans, jewelry, photography, bird feeders, smoked salmon, jams and ornaments by paying their vendor fees. Finish off your holiday shopping list with one-of-a-kind gifts.



Buy Tickets: Finders Keepers Consignment, Garage Door Studio or Avondale City Hall for $20 per car or online at for $25 per car.

Sunday, Dec. 12

Light Tour 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Holiday Market
Noon to 6 p.m. at the Avondale Community Club. Masks required.

More info at

Give Yourself a Better Bottom Line

Gift Yourself a Better Bottom-Line

Five essentials you can start today

IF YOU’RE NOT on your own gift list, it’s not too late. Set yourself up for 2022 with some financial foundations and start off the new year on the right track.

  • Budget like a boss

    All financial goals begin here: Set a budget. Then stick to it.

    Don’t have a budget in place yet? You’re not alone. Only 45% of U.S. adults say they have a budget and keep close track of their spending. In order to reach your savings goals and take charge of your finances, you need to plan your spending and then hold yourself accountable to it.

    The best system is the one that works for you. There are plenty of apps, online tools or a simple spreadsheet. Be diligent.

    Here’s an example of the power of planning your spending: A daily visit to the coffee shop can add up and be easy to shift to another financial goal.

    Assuming the latte is $5, that’s $35 spent in a week, $150 in a month and $1,825 in a year.

    When you consider the total, you may be interested in changing that spending by buying an espresso machine and enjoying homemade lattes while you put your money to work for you.

    1. Save something every paycheck

      Many people know that setting up a rainy day fund is a good idea. You may even have some money put aside. Make sure to evaluate your needs each year and save more if necessary. A good rule of thumb is to have enough liquid assets in your emergency fund to cover three to six months of expenses. As your lifestyle changes over the years, (a new house, a new car, maybe even children), be sure your emergency fund can still cover you if it starts to “rain.”

    2. Invest in your future

      It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. At a young age, retirement may seem like a lofty concept or distant dream. But starting to save early in your career will set you up for a secure retirement. An easy way to get started is to maximize your employer’s matching contribution to your 401(k). This will keep you from leaving money on the table and provide a consistent savings vehicle.

    3. Keep score with credit

      Your credit score is a crucial factor when looking to make major financial decisions, such as purchasing a house. And the law requires all three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) to provide you with one free credit report annually.

      Here are a few factors that impact your credit score. The weight of each is determined by the credit scoring model used:
      › Payment history
      › Type and number of accounts
      › Used credit vs. available credit
      › Credit history

    4. Fill the gap in your insurance

      Human capital, the total value of one’s future earning potential, is the missing piece in most portfolios. You insure your car, in the event you get into an accident. You insure your belongings, in case they’re lost or stolen. It is just as important to protect your future earnings, which is done with life and disability insurance. And the best time to purchase life insurance is when you’re young and healthy. There may come a time in life when we need to cut back our monthly expenses to save more or live within our means.



    1. Ask and answer these questions:
      › What are my savings goals?
      › What are my necessary expenses?
      › What is a realistic spending target?
    2. Hold yourself accountable
      › Track your income and expenses monthly
      › Find a tool or system that works for you
    3. A good system could be setting up different accounts for budgeting purposes. Here are four examples that could help organize your spending:

      Monthly Expenses: Primary spending account (checking)
      Vacation and Holiday Gifts: Reserve spending account (checking/savings).
      Emergency Fund: Savings building to 3 to 6 months of expenses (see step 2 below)
      Upcoming home improvements, vehicle, tuition, etc.: Reserve savings account.

    When the Weather Outside is Frightful

    The travel is so delightful

    WITH THE HOLIDAYS and winter months looming, it’s human nature to find ourselves dreaming of a getaway. Especially as the world went through a travel hiatus. There are so many choices: Ski trips for a winter wonderland of snow or a winter warm up in Mexico or the Caribbean.

    Every trip begins with a desire and an idea, check out these ideas to start yours:

    Before you go, COVID-19 requirements

    The elephant in the room when it comes to travel talk, COVID-19 and your destination’s requirements are one of the considerations. While the world is opening back up, there will still be rules for each location that you will want to be familiar with prior to travel. Masks will be required in the airport and on planes, and many places will require vaccination. Book with a travel advisor who can help you work through the requirements for your specific destination and keep you up to date on changes to make sure your trip is all fun and no hassle.

    Sure as the driven snow

    For ski trips this year, consider all things Utah. Find choices that fit every type of travel.

    Park City: Bigger is better as this destination offers 7,300 acres of ski and snowboard terrain. Choose accommodations in historic downtown Park City where the nightlife buzzes or quieter slopeside lodging.

    Deer Valley: Concierge service and impeccable attention to details hallmark this top-shelf resort where the magnificence of the snow is matched by the off-mountain activities. Among the signature experiences, enjoy the famed Fireside Dining where raclette cheese melts served from stone fireplaces. Reserve a horse-drawn sleigh ride or enjoy a Snowshoes and S’mores event with the littles

    Solitude: Only 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, find 77 runs for all levels here. Solitude’s Nordic Center is one of its treasures with 20 km of trails through stunning terrain. Don’t miss the kid-friendly ice rink in the village.

    Getting there: Easy flights from Atlanta (and other cities)

    Expect: Great powder, excellent dining and nightlife, and doable COVID regulations.

    Beautiful beaches

    Whether you’ll be sunbathing and splashing as a couple or family, Mexico has so many options. It’s easily accessible with convenient flights from every major city.

    Grand Velas Riviera Maya: A favorite all inclusive vacation overflowing with activities for the whole family, this resort packs a punch for every age group. Pamper yourself at the five-star spa while the littles enjoy supervised fun on their own. You’ll be surrounded with the tastes of world-class dining and a pool that goes on forever.

    Le Blanc Resort: This all-inclusive, adults only hotel is close to Cancun. During the day, enjoy their stunning beaches and gorgeous spa. At night, indulge in their tasty restaurants, lively bars, and nightly entertainment.

    Get tickled pink by the red rocks

    Sometimes it seems easier to stay domestic. Arizona’s Sedona plays the perfect host forb both your mindful and adventure sides.

    Enchantment Resort: The Sedona sky sets a spectacular backdrop with sunrises, sunsets and a magical night of stargazing. With more than 300 miles of canyon trails along sandstone cliffs and through juniper forests, there’s opportunity for every age and interest to reconnect with nature via hiking, biking, driving or gentle canyon walks. The Tails & Trails program means your fur baby is also invited.

    If wellness is on your itinerary, don’t miss the morning celebration, labyrinth and spa. In the mood to be wined and dined? Take in a fabulous view while you sip innovative cocktails and Southwest-inspired cuisine from their award-winning culinary team recently featured at The James Beard House in New York City.

    Becky Lamb is the owner of Becky Lamb Travel, a Decatur business for 30 years. For more info about these and other destinations, contact the travel advisor team at Becky Lamb Travel at 404.378.4452.

    Back to Life

    WHILE STILL FACING some safety challenges in 2021, it felt healing to return to some of our favorite pastimes, such as sporting events, music, celebrations, and cultural festivals in a COVID-safe way.

    Graduation class of 2021

    Graduation seemed more emotional and memorable for the community because of the two-year postponement caused by Covid.

    Braves win, Braves win!

    Bringing us back to the good ole days of 1995, our Atlanta Braves once again captured the World Series Title uniting the Atlanta community.

    Thundering down Madison Ave.

    The Madison Ave Soapbox Derby celebrated its 10th anniversary and has grown from 20 to over 90 drivers. Families had a blast and raised a record breaking $35,000 for The Decatur Education Foundation to make improvements to the Decatur Student Center.

    Music scene is better than ever

    Amplify Decatur raised more money than any previous year. Thankful for a chance to reunite as a community to hear live music from a group of talented artists, such as the Indigo Girls who played their first Decatur concert marking a historical occasion for this home-grown band. On the heels of Amplify, Oakhurst PorchFest returned after a long covid hiatus to provide another opportunity to hear local talent and celebrate community from the expansive porches of Oakhurst homes.

    Moving into 2022 there are so many events to look forward to, such as the spring festivals

    Back to Life

    Back to Life

    Gift Guide Refresh

    New local offerings for your nice list

    SUPPLY CHAIN seems to be the buzz term of the season in a world that has seen the likes of toilet paper scarcity to used car values skyrocketing. And for holiday shopping, that means buying local has never been more significant.

    If these are the times, there’s no better spot to be than Decatur for unique finds that speak about the thought counting. This year, there are some newbies to consider to sprinkle a little refresh into your steady stalwarts.




    Ultra Rich Moisturizing Cream
    Royal Thanaka
    $48 (take 20% off if you mention this article)

    This jar of goodness is the queen of creams, the first of its kind in the United States to feature Thanaka. The ancient skincare ingredient comes with the test of time, used for more than 2,000 years for skin protection and hydration in Myanmar (Burma). You’ll be giving a story of thoughtful care – in both the production of the cream and in its daily use by your giftee.


    The Thanaka is hand-selected from trees that continue to grow after select branches are harvested in Central Burma. It’s combined with other high-quality botanical ingredients to “ensure an excellent natural, effective and gentle product,” said co-founder Mary Ellen Sheehan. “We have been very well received by people who have had the opportunity to try our cream.”

    The shop is open Wednesday through Sunday and expects two more products available by the holidays. You could be giving the next biggest thing to the loves on your list.

    Learn more at




    Decatur Crew Sweatshirt

    Whether curling up with a good book or beer, or heading out for a crisp winter day, this exclusive sweatshirt celebrates the Decaturite within your giftee. The super comfy cotton/ poly fleece boasts the designer’s first-ever felt lettering application. If individuality is the thought that counts, this gift delivers ten-fold.

    More from ABETTERBUZZ

    A mix between quirky and bold, find apparel and accessories that are off the beaten path at this shop. The line began as a side-business born from a design studio focused on identity and branding for companies. ABETTERBUZZ (ABB) is a 100% queer-owned business that takes that design talent to produce products in small batches.

    Owner and Creative Director Buzz Busbee describes the approach as “all things Pride! Pride in your city, pride in your sexuality, pride in your individuality and pride in your expression. It’s experiential and creating community, not just selling product.”

    Check out their Atlanta skyline graphic paying homage to the city “too busy to hate” in the form of enamel pins, tees or a United tank, or celebrate GAYTL with socks, a pin or a cap.

    The brick and mortar is part of the city’s Decatur Retail Incubator Program (D.R.I.P.). Upcoming promotions include:

    Terrific Thursday: After 5 p.m., spend $20 and get a free ABB Decatur keychain.
    Small Business Saturday: Enjoy 20% discount in-store all day.

    Find more at


    Monthly Plant Subscription
    Lush Plant Co.
    $50 per month, billed in 3 month increments

    Imagine at the end of the month, when the time feels long, Mother Nature (in the form of Lush Plant Co.) delivers inspiration, air quality and hope in a pot to your beloved. And just as the green love houseplant arrives, the anticipation for next month’s surprise begins
    again. With the easy consultation available by online or phone chat from the gurus at the shop, a thriving plant is as good as done. It’s the ultimate in “the gift that keeps on giving.”

    › Subscription includes one 4”-6” plant and accessory, with delivery within a three mile radius of the Oakhurst shop. Add a personalized houseplant card at no additional fee.

    More from Lush

    If a subscription is out of the scope of your gift, the Oakhurst shop has choices that will meet any goal. One step inside Lush Plant Co. and a green thumb grows on even the most stubborn self-described plant killers. The jungle paradise is eye candy with its bright and sun-dripped greenery.

    The shop was founded in 2020 by sisters Andrea Kidd and Jennifer Martha, who believe plants are a “living art” for your home with both physical and mental health benefits.

    Pick their brains about whether the Venus Fly Trap sends a better message than String of Pearls, or how big and fast the Monstera Deliciosa will grow. They’ll pair it with the perfect accessory to make your gift a conversation piece for years to come.

    Whether you like to geek out on all things green or just know enough to be dangerous, leaving with a great gift is guaranteed. “We
    just love talking to people and helping them find the perfect gift,” said Kidd. “There’s basically something for everybody in here whether they’re a new plant parent or collectors.”

    More info at




    Zodica Perfumery


    Attempting to find the perfect fragrance for your loved one may need the help from the stars.

    Zodiac signs are the inspiration for designing the zodiac perfume collection that makes shopping and gifting perfume personal and fun. Studies have shown that 80% of women prefer their sign’s perfume over the other scents in the calendar. We call that personal and magical.

    EcoDenizen offers the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. They are open daily at 335 West Ponce de Leon Ave. in downtown Decatur.

    Visit to learn more.

    How Decatur’s Restaurateurs Give Back

    “When you reach the top, you should remember to send the elevator back down for the others.”– Edith Piaf

    WE GOT A BIT personal with some of the local chefs that feed our community in more ways than delicious food. Here are their stories of struggle, survival and giving back.


    Co-owner of Brick Store Pub
    & LEON’s Full Service
    Brick Store Pub – 125 E. Court Square,
    Decatur, GA 30030 |
    LEON’s – 131 E Ponce de Leon Ave,
    Decatur, GA 30030 |

    As the co-founder of three of Decatur’s hottest venues – Brick Store Pub, LEON’s Full Service and Kimball House – as well as Good Word Brewing in Duluth, Mike Gallagher knows what it takes to make a restaurant/pub successful.

    “My partners and I try to focus on the people inside our four walls and providing a caring and welcoming culture for them, so they can in turn do so for our guests. We pride ourselves on working with local farmers for the freshest and most delicious food. We apply the same principles to our drink offerings.”

    It was a mutual love of good beer, food and service that led Gallagher and friends, Dave Blanchard and Tom Moore, to open Brick Store Pub in 1997. The “salt-of-the earth” hangout is beloved by locals and continuously ranks among the Top 10 Beer Bars in the world. LEON’s Full Service has been named one of Top 50 Bars in the Country by Food and Wine magazine.

    You’ve accomplished so much with your thriving businesses, how do you like to give back?

    My dear friend Ryan Hidinger, whom The Giving Kitchen was formed around, asked me to be part of the founding team. It’s been some of the most rewarding work to-date for me. The work that this organization has done to help those in need in the restaurant business is mind boggling, and especially during the pandemic. I am so proud and grateful to be a part of this organization.

    I just can’t imagine what all of the grant recipients would’ve done if this organization was not there to provide financial assistance and timely special service assistance to help those in need in our industry – literally helping to keep food service workers alive and a roof over their heads, and over half of them have families.

    What’s a day in the life of Michael Gallagher like?

    It’s not always terribly exciting, but it has been rewarding: Lots of meetings with our leadership planning how to rebuild as we move through the pandemic. Time on the floor running food and drink, greeting our guests. When time allows, tasting dishes, beers, wine or cocktails that are hitting our menus seasonally – that’s the fun stuff! And I have the privilege of being a dad to an 11-year-old girl, and I have a lovely wife and cute puppy at home. Dinners at home are a highlight, and family time is sacrosanct.

    Are there any upcoming events going on at your restaurants?
    Our beer garden at Brick Store Pub will be a Winter Wonderland extravaganza again this year with firepits, holiday lights, showing holiday movies on the big screen and all sorts of special food and drink offerings like crepes and hot cider – plenty of special holiday beer offerings as well.

    At LEON’s, we’ll be offering our famous eggnog cocktail as well as our full holiday cocktail list. Our chefs will be offering fun, seasonal favorites and new dishes from the kitchen.



    President and Chief Ideas Man of Red
    Beard Restaurants
    Revival – 129 Church Street,
    Decatur, GA 30030 |

    Kevin “Red Beard” Gillespie wanted to be a chef ever since high school, so that’s what he did. While studying the culinary arts at The Art Institute of Atlanta, the Georgia native honed his craft working in restaurants. After a move to Oregon, Gillespie found himself homesick for his family and friends and returned to Atlanta.

    In 2013, he opened his first solo restaurant, Gunshow, then Revival in 2015. Today, he has four venues under his Red Beard Restaurants company and is the author of two cookbooks.

    Among his noteworthy accolades, Gillespie was a fan-favorite on Top Chef, a three-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year.’ And he made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

    You’ve seen a lot of success, how do you like to give back?

    Giving back has always been important to me and was instilled in me by my parents. We have participated in numerous fundraisers at the restaurants and personally, I’ve had the pleasure of using my cooking skills to help others learn to cook healthier and with local products. During COVID, all those things were put on hold. That’s when my passion for ending systemic hunger was kicked into high gear, and we started our own organization to help, the Defend Southern Food Foundation.

    Tell me about Defend Southern Food Foundation and why it’s important to you.

    My business partner Marco Shaw and I wanted to find a way to make a difference that lasts longer than a day or week. We wanted families to be fed, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. The COVID crisis put a spotlight on the hunger issue in their own backyard. That’s when we created the Defend Southern Food Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Since then, employees at Cold Beer have prepared meals to feed the families of students in the Maynard Jackson school cluster five nights a week.


    The 225,000 meals, so far, are nutritious and delicious, providing stress-relief for the recipients and supporting the local economy through product purchases. Funds are needed to keep the project going. By dining at Cold Beer, guests are supporting the program. Donations also can be made online. I have pledged to match the first $25,000 donated.

    Do you have a motto that you live by?

    I would say that my motto is, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

    What would you say is the secret to your success?

    The secret to my success is simply that I have never cared if I received the credit for our accomplishments, only that we continue as a team to fight for the win.

    Revival serves southern fare in a building that was originally a home, so it definitely has that homey feel to it. What dish are they best known for?

    Our fried chicken! And we are a place for families to get together in a comfortable setting and enjoy updated southern favorites.

    Follow @RevivalDecatur on Instagram for their holiday and New Year’s Eve events.



    President/CEO of
    Castellucci Hospitality Group
    Iberian Pig – 121 Sycamore St, Decatur, GA 30030 |

    Reopening the John’s Creek Sugo after it had gone out of business, Fred Castellucci helmed his first restaurant right after graduating from prestigious Cornell University’s Hospitality Management Program.

    In 2009, he opened the original Iberian Pig Decatur location on a shoestring budget of less than $100,000. Today, the family-owned and operated Castellucci Hospitality Group has a collection of popular restaurants in the greater Atlanta area including Bar Mercado & Recess, Cooks & Soldiers Double Zero, Sugo, Mujõ and The Iberian Pig.

    You have several successful restaurants under your belt now, what do you credit your success to?

    My mentality is always to give my time, energy, expertise, money, whatever that is, to helping others as much as I possibly can, without the thought process of when it’s coming back. It’s funny, the world conspires to do good things for you when you take that attitude.

    That’s a great way to think. Can you elaborate on how you like to give back?

    Our primary way of giving back in the last year and a half is kind of all interrelated. It started with our COVID response: Right off the bat we didn’t lay off any of our employees, we never cut salaries, we paid out bonuses, we gave raises. We did all those things that no other restaurant company really did at the time.

    And it was initially about: How do we support the people that support us? But also, how do we support the community by serving them in a safe manner? That kind of mentality kind of kept going with how we continued to manage through it. One of the ways in which we gave back over the last year and a half, is the Feed the Frontline Initiative, which we have done over and over again (going to the hospitals and feeding all the frontline healthcare workers).

    One of the things that I get the most enjoyment from is helping others succeed as an entrepreneur. In the last year, I helped two people start their own businesses through funding and help and expertise and mentorship. I’ve been looking to identify people who are ambitious and want to be an entrepreneur but maybe never had the ability or funding or connections to do so.

    What would you say your restaurants are best known for?

    First and foremost, it’s about the culture and hospitality. Our mission statement is “Passionately pursuing the perfect dining experience one guest at a time.” And it’s really rooted in that individual guest connection one at a time – the way that I built the businesses in the early days – when we had one restaurant, and we were struggling to survive, and we had very few customers walk in the door.

    Do you have a favorite of your restaurants?

    I don’t know – they’re all so unique and different. If I were to have a favorite, it’s got to be the original Iberian Pig in Decatur just because that restaurant changed my life, that community changed my life. I had struggled my entire life before that and overnight, we were busy, and it was successful, and it was well-received. Without that business, that restaurant, the whole company doesn’t exist.

    What would you say sets The Iberian Pig Decatur apart from other restaurants?

    I am a big proponent of the concept of energy in a building, and it’s one of those things that every restaurant tries to create. And it’s just like this alchemy that’s not pure science, and some places get it right, and some places don’t.

    Decatur just has this incredible energy that is created from the square. Also the building and the bones we have, they’re over 100 years old [with] original rafters and exterior brick from an alleyway that was closed-in many years ago behind the bar. There’s just great acoustics in the building – it’s the right size, it’s the right ceiling height – all these things come together with great hospitality and delicious food that make it magical.


    A Cut Above The Rest

    Chef Ford Fry has a restaurant empire built on delicious fare and helping others get what they want

    IT’S EARLY NOVEMBER. I am waiting for Chef Ford Fry inside his Decatur restaurant no. 246. Since I am a few minutes early, I take a look around. The restaurant [it’s actually Fry’s smallest restaurant] boasts the same charm and inviting ambiance that all of his restaurants have. Exposed white brick walls adorned with bunches of tied greenery are to my left, and towards the back is an open kitchen. Large metal pendant light fixtures hang above tables appointed with white tablecloths and black chairs.

    Five minutes later, the Houston, Texas-raised, Atlanta-based chef arrives wearing a Graduate Knoxville camo baseball cap and a navy-blue puffer vest over a white short-sleeved polo, paired with light-colored jeans and brown boots.

    The making of Fry’s Atlanta empire

    If you’re an Atlantan, you’re likely familiar with the name Ford Fry as this city is bursting with his restaurants – there’s JCT. Kitchen & Bar, no. 246, The Optimist, King + Duke, St. Cecilia, Superica, Marcel, Beetlecat and Little Rey.

    As Fry’s restaurant empire continues to grow, it’s easy to see how he builds those who cheer him on as well as indulge in his delicious fare.

    Fry’s restaurants are renowned for using the freshest, local ingredients in the most flavorful dishes. Take Marcel’s perfectly cooked Beef Wellington and unrivaled, herby, pan-fried bread or Beetlecat’s succulent, Instagram-worthy lobster roll or Superica’s sizzling steak fajitas with that incredible Mexican butter. Or perhaps you recognize Fry from his appearance on Netflix’s first season of The Chef Show.

    Fry is kind of a big deal. He is a fourtime James Beard Award semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur, the winner of Eater’s Empire Builder of the Year, has made Esquire’s Best Restaurants in America list, a cookbook author and the winner of Georgia Restaurant Association’s Restaurateur of the Year award.

    Actually, Fry is a really big deal – though he would beg to differ. “I think people have some sort of preconceived notion that I probably have this celebrity chef vibe to me or ‘He’s probably really busy.’ And they’d be surprised to know that that is not the case. I’m busy – most of the time, I’m not. [Staff comment] ‘Mr. Fry, you’re the man!’ No, I’m not the man.” He laughs. “I’m just a dude. I’m just really laid-back and down-to-earth and very approachable.”

    no. 246 begins something even bigger

    Fry, who studied at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, worked as a chef in fine dining in Florida, Colorado, California and Georgia before opening his first restaurant, JCT. Kitchen & Bar in 2007. Early on, Fry knew he would open more than one restaurant, but never thought he’d have the restaurant empire he has today. “What happened was I got passionate… I knew a lot of chefs in town that maybe didn’t have access to capital or maybe were overly creative but didn’t understand the business side of things. So, then I had this thought, ‘What if I help those chefs or brought them on with us or partner with them?’”

    This is how no. 246 came to fruition. Fry knew Drew Belline and heard about a space that fit his style of cooking. Today, Belline is
    V.P. of Culinary, a partner in the restaurant and has equity in the whole company.

    Recently, the restaurant experienced a “10-year switch” and transitioned to oldschool Italian. “no. 246 really fits Decatur. For me, it’s the right size for the city. The [exhaust] hoods aren’t necessarily the best, that’s a good thing for me because you come in, and it smells like someone’s grandmother is cooking. 246 just has that spirit of Decatur – that square, that small-town feel,” he says with a smile.

    A Cut Above the Rest


    Do you still cook or are you more of a restaurateur?

    You always ask yourself, what would I do if money didn’t matter? That’s pretty much what I do – the fun stuff. So, anything that’s not fun or I don’t want to do, I don’t do. But to hone that down, I am more of the visionary. I love the whole restaurant creative aspect; it definitely starts with the food, because that’s my background. But for the most part, I love all aspects of bringing it all together, so that’s really what I do. Then, I try to look at the restaurants that we have and try to make sure they stay fresh or if they need a refresh, they get refreshed. Not too much cooking, cooking more at home, a lot.

    Do you visit your restaurants frequently?

    Everyone always asks, “Where are you?” I’m in my car, usually, going back and forth. We have a new office on the Westside. It’s cool – it’s got iced coffee because I drink seven of those a day. That’s where some of our corporate people are, so I’m usually there.

    I prefer to be in the restaurants and kind of bounce around. Sometimes, I’m just coming in to eat and experience it. Sometimes, just coming in, sitting down and talking philosophically. “Hey, where do you want to go with this?”

    When I opened JCT., for four years every day, I looked at everything as, “How can we make this better?” That was just my mindset. I guess I just kind of hope that everyone else has that same mindset. How can you make it better? What are you looking at? What’s inspiring you? A lot of times, I can tell by people’s Instagram. What are they posting pictures of? I just try to understand – are they happy? Inspired? Because if they’re not happy or inspired, sometimes we’ll just do a switcheroo. “Hey, what about this restaurant?” and put them there and they’ll just lighten up. Sometimes, they just need new scenery.

    Are you posting on your Instagram?

    I do mine. I feel like I’m addicted to it a little bit now, but I think it’s fun. I like to learn what happens when I post something.
    Which one gets the most engagement? It’s just interesting to me to see how it all works. I’ll go to Geotags of all the restaurants, and I’ll see all the pictures of the food people are posting, so I’ll know that’s how it really looks. It helps me stay in tune with what’s going on.

    Chefs who are doing things super simple are what’s inspiring me. When I was younger, I liked a lot of ingredients. Now, I like very few ingredients. I guess when I recognize someone doing something that I’m really passionate about as well – letting the food of your childhood inspire your current self now. What do I want to eat versus how do I display my artistic ability on a plate? How do we make the best burger ever? What inspires me is things I like to eat.

    What do you like to eat?

    Oh my gosh, steak frites. Who is going to cook an amazing steak and just the technique of that with homemade French fries? If you can nail those two items on a plate and do it really well, as opposed to just slapping it on there– I love that. The simple pastas, where you actually taste the pasta and there’s not a lot of stuff in it.

    What are you cooking at home during the holidays?

    I do two kinds of turkey and the gravy. I put most of my effort into that. I brine them both. I smoke one turkey, then I cook one turkey in one of those clear roasting bags – I call that the leftover turkey and the gravy turkey. Cornbread stuffing is always big. There’s something my mom made that I like making, it’s called pineapple dressing. It uses white Wonder Bread, crushed pineapple, and a custard. It is so good. It’s just one of those things, if you grew up having it as a kid, you’d probably like it. But if you had it now, you’d be [thinking] “this is disgusting.”

    Does your family leave all the cooking to you since you’re the professional?

    They do now and every time there’s holidays coming, everyone pretends that they know nothing about cooking. I’m like, “What happened the last 40 years?”

    For more information on Chef Ford Fry’s restaurants, visit

    Seasonal Planning

    Winter is Coming

    Seven tips for preparing your yard

    WHILE GEORGIANS are fortunate to have warmer winters than about half the country, those months aren’t exactly tropical. Landscapes need some love to prepare for the cold season.

    The Plants Creative maintenance crew has these top tips for winterizing a landscape, whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional for help.

    • Water everything before winter arrives in force. The best way to protect shrubs, small trees, sod and seasonal flowers from cold weather damage is to water them before the frost. Water insulates root systems and helps prevent cold weather damage. This is especially important for newer, less established plantings.
    • Shut down your irrigation system.
      December, January and February are the months where it gets cold enough to ruin your irrigation system. It can be protected through winterizing by turning off your water supply valve, running your system through its cycles and blowing out the pipes to completely empty them.
    • Look after your lawn. Before it gets really chilly, make sure you rake up all the leaves and remove any debris which can smother grass and stunt its growth when spring rolls around. It’s also a good idea to overseed and aerate your turf in the fall.
    • Mulch your gardens. Adding an inch or two of shredded bark mulch or pine straw around trees, shrubs and other perennial plants will give them extra protection for the winter. Mulch insulates the soil, keeping the roots warm and moist when it freezes. Plus, it stops erosion from happening and prevents weeds from growing.
    • Divide your perennials. This will prevent your beds from getting overcrowded. It’s more simple than it sounds. All you need to do is gently dig up the plant and lightly pull apart the roots with your hands, or cut them carefully with a sharp spade or knife. Then, replant them elsewhere. Time your dividing and transplanting for four to six weeks before the ground freezes. It’s a good idea to dig up any delicate bulbs that might die over the winter and store them indoors to be replanted in the springtime.
    • Plant some winter annuals. If you’d like your garden to stay green, there are a range of annuals you can grow throughout the winter. Pansies are a favorite. Plant them in October or November so they can get established and watch them bloom. Other great winter plants include ornamentals like kale, mustard and chard, as well as winter vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
    • Prune your trees & shrubs. In late January and February, prune your trees and shrubs. The dead of winter is the best time to do this, as the plants are dormant and no sap is flowing yet.

    For more information or a free downloadable guide, go to

    Purchase Awareness

    Hitting the Road Again

    Is this the year to buy an electric car?

    ONE OF THE TELL-TALE signs of emerging from our distanced living is the growing traffic. Commuting and cars are returning to be part of daily living. For the 40% of US households that make a car purchase each year, the resurgence creates the right time to consider another purchase.

    On top of all the makes and models, one of the factors to decide is whether to buy a gas or an electric vehicle.

    Variations of Electric Cars

    Automakers are adding more options for electric vehicles (EVs) to their lineup every year.

    Besides models, there are several types of power among EVs to choose from. Batteryelectric vehicles (BEVs) are powered solely by electricity, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) run on both electricity and gas. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) rely mostly on gasoline, but they also have an electric battery that assists the gas engine to reduce fuel costs.

    Cost of ownership

    Sticker price is a big factor when choosing between gas-powered and EVs. Those prices are expected to get lower as the vehicles become more common and less expensive to manufacture.

    There are considerations beyond the initial price. The average cost to fill up a gas vehicle is approximately $40. The cost to fully charge an EV depends on where the electricity is coming from, but the national average is just under $7.

    In addition to their lower fuel costs, EVs are often less costly than their gas-powered counterparts to maintain and repair.

    Environmental impact

    One of the main cases driving the choice for an electric car is that they’re more environmentally friendly. The largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. comes from transportation. Because EVs don’t rely on as much (or any) gas, they have a much smaller carbon footprint than their gas-powered counterparts.

    For example, the fully-electric Nissan Leaf produces under 200 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per mile, while the Toyota Sequoia SUV emits over 800 grams of carbon dioxide per mile.

    Purchase price inflation

    Another post-pandemic phenomenon affecting car purchase decisions is the growing cost of cars. According to the Consumer Price Index, the cost of purchasing used cars is up 30% from the past year and new cars 5%. A global chip shortage and pent-up demand are contributing factors.

    Kim is a part of the Emory Alliance Credit Union team. For more information or to pre-qualify for your upcoming purchase, visit


    1. Shop choices: There are many options, including a local credit union. These institutions often have lower rates and more flexible terms.
    2. Pre-qualify: Knowing your buying power before you shop for the car can strengthen your position to purchase. Often this is an easy step that can be taken online.
    3. Compare Rates and Terms: Rates and terms will vary depending on your current financial situation.
    4. Consider Mechanical Repair Coverage (MRC): The miles can add up, but the repair costs don’t have to. Various coverage levels and deductibles are available.

    Giving Back

    Planned Giving Provides Peace of Mind

    While Supporting Your Causes for Years to Come

    IF YOU’VE BEEN TO a community event in Decatur in the last 20 years, you have probably seen local resident Arthur Ratliff taking photos. Arthur has lived in Decatur since 1987 and has recently retired from State Farm after 31 years as an insurance agent. He has been a supporter and dedicated volunteer photographer for Decatur Education Foundation (DEF) for many years, but he recently made a significant commitment: Ratliff has included DEF as a beneficiary in his estate.

    As a former insurance agent who has spent his career helping his clients with estate planning, Ratliff is hoping to inspire others to do the same by planning ahead to give back to the causes about which they care.

    His commitment to giving back to his community began in the 1990s where he volunteered alongside the Junior Achievement Program. “Junior Achievement taught economics to children and helped provide after school programs to middle and high schoolers,” Ratliff said. “We taught them how to apply for a job, what credit cards are, things like that.”

    “We are so honored that Arthur has chosen DEF as a beneficiary. He has been a dependable photographer and supporter for many years, and his planned gift ensures that his impact will be felt for years to come.”

    – Gail Rothman, DEF Executive Director

    Ratliff then went on to become one of DEF’s first volunteers, working with the organization as a special events photographer.

    “Whenever they have events or fundraisers, I come do photography for them. My favorite event at which to take photos is the scholarship awards banquet, where I take pictures of the recipients with the donors.”

    In his professional life, Ratliff spent years as an insurance agent helping people with their estate planning. He recently made the decision to include DEF in his own estate plans because of his time and connection with the organization.

    “I like what they’re doing. I’ve always had a connection with [DEF],” he commented.

    “They’re very hands-on, and I really like the fact that they reach out to the kids in need in the community. They’re always accountable for the funds that they receive. Sometimes you donate funds to an organization, and you don’t know what they’re doing with it, not that they’re doing anything dishonest, but you don’t know where that money goes. DEF isn’t like that.”

    Ratliff is now encouraging others to take charge of their estate plans and leave a positive impact after they’re gone. And he believes there’s no reason to wait. “It’s not anything to put off or postpone,” he added. “Many of us have more time on our hands than we did when we commuted to work every day. It’s not a comfortable thing to do – a lot of my customers didn’t want to talk about dying or death, but it has to be discussed and planned for. Now is the time to do it.”

    Ratliff understands why people tend to wait until they’re older to begin their planning but believes this practice is counterproductive. “Lots of people wait until they’re older because they think ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ and they’re probably right, but as an agent, I’ve seen people pass at every age.”

    The impact that individuals can make in their estate planning is sometimes even greater than they would be able to make during their life. Restrictive budgets, in particular, are a significant limitation when it comes to donations. But by taking out a life insurance policy and leaving a small percentage of that to a charity or organization, individuals can have a massive impact.

    “If someone has a $100,000 life insurance policy, for example, and they gave a small percentage, say 10%, of that, think about how much it would do. There are very few people who, when they donate to the DEF, can afford to give $10,000 at a time, but most of us can afford to do that from life insurance proceeds,” Ratliff said.

    The process of starting estate planning is a daunting task for many. In reality, it is no more than a series of conversations with an insurance agent.

    “If you don’t have a life insurance policy, there are plenty of life insurance agents, some of them in the Decatur Business Association, who could sit down and talk to you about it.

    The same person who sells you a car or home insurance policy can talk to you about this,” Ratliff said.

    However, once the initial process is com plete, it is important to revisit and reevaluate plans every so often to ensure they continue to align with their current values.

    “A young person might choose their parents as their beneficiaries, but [an older person] might consider siblings, children grandchildren,” Ratliff said.

    “Planned gifts enable donors to create a lasting legacy that can have a big impact on the school system in which they were raised,” commented DEF Executive Director Gail Rothman. “We are so honored that Arthur has chosen DEF as a beneficiary. He has been a dependable photographer and supporter for many years, and his planned gift ensures that his impact will be felt for years to come.”

    Estate planning can be a difficult process, and some might find it hard to decide where to donate. Ratliff chose to give to DEF, an organization he valued and trusted to use his donation wisely. “Any charity or school system that you personally benefited from, I believe, is a worthy recipient to which you can give something back,” he said. “If you don’t have a lot to give right now, this is a way to give back more than you could have in your lifetime.”

    If you would like to learn more about making a planned gift to Decatur Education Foundation, you can contact Gail Rothman at