There’s Something About Avondale

AVONDALE ESTATES, located east of Decatur, is a beautiful family-friendly city with that heartwarming, hometown feel that can only be attributed to a strong sense of community.

Founded in 1924 by George Francis Willis, Avondale Estates features Tudor-Revival style architecture reminiscent of William Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Known as home to the first Waffle House restaurant — founded Labor Day, 1955 by Avondale Estates neighbors Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner — today, you can visit the original restaurant building at 2719 East College Avenue, which is now a museum featuring Waffle House memorabilia.

As the city has grown and developed over the years, Avondale Estates has established itself as a desirable place to live, work and play. For three years in a row, this quaint town has made the “10 Best SmallTown Beer Scene in this US” list, voted on by USA Today’s readers. We spoke to three local entrepreneurs about why they chose to establish their business in this charming community.

Pine Street Market

Rusty Bowers has been a resident of Avondale Estates for 15 years now, since 2008. The chef and founder of Pine Street Market, who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, traveled all over the world before settling down in Georgia. He lived in Maui (where he learned fish butchery), traveled throughout eastern Europe and the Middle East (where he learned about farming and sausage-making), then went to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

In 2005, Bowers’ love of the South took him to Atlanta. “I was working in a restaurant, but it wasn’t really hitting all my needs. I met the owners of Riverview Farms (2007). You could buy their products in a farmers market or on the menu in some really expensive restaurants, but no one was really celebrating this beautiful, Georgia-grown Heritage Pork. So, that led to the opening of Pine Street Market, the first whole-animal butcher shop in Atlanta,” says Bowers.

Today, Pine Street Market has five full-time butchers and sells their products at open-air farmers markets around Atlanta, shipping nationwide through their website. “What really sets us apart is the connection with Riverview Farms — the fact that Chop Shop (their meat-driven retail store with Riverview Farms) is female farmer owned is very unusual. Our line of artisan sausages, our Heritage Bacon, was featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno twice. It’s won a bunch of awards.”

Bowers decided to plant roots in Avondale Estates after many trips to the farmers markets and arts festivals here. He gravitated to its “punk-rock, do-it-yourself vibe” and sense of community. “Avondale Estates is all about the love of community and helping each other out. “I definitely would not have made it 15 years without the support of the community, and I am just really honored and thankful for that.”

Once a month, Bowers partners with The Lost Druid Brewery & Distillery for a butchering class, which includes drinks, lunch and take-home meat for $160. “We do a whole hog breakdown with different beers and have volunteers cooking on the Big Green Egg. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Lost Druid Brewery & Distillery

In June, The Lost Druid Brewery & Distillery celebrated their fouryear anniversary. Co-founded by Stacia Familo-Hopek and her husband, Rob, the brewery was “essentially an introduction into this business for both of us.” In their past lives, Stacia was an industrial and organizational psychologist for two decades, while Rob was a former technology entrepreneur who worked with breweries and restaurants and had been home brewing for 20+ years.

In 2017, when Senate Bill 85 passed, Rob and Stacia jumped at the opportunity to begin a new adventure. “My husband runs the brewery/ distillery operations and I run the taproom, kitchen, events and general operations. The Lost Druid is a 100% woman-owned brewery/distillery, and I believe is the only one in the Atlanta metro area that is solely owned by a woman,” says Stacia. The eco-conscious business is also Dekalb County’s first and only solar-powered brewery.

Rob and Stacia looked all over Atlanta before choosing Avondale Estates for their business’ home. “We found that Avondale Estates was about to go through a bit of a renaissance with many of their city plans, and we wanted to help make that happen. When we started construction, we were the first commercial construction, sans apartments, in over 12 years. Five years after breaking ground, look how much this city has grown!”

The founders set out to create a taproom-centric model that serves beer and delicious small plates in an environment that encourages customers to become regulars, and that’s exactly what they did. The innovative brewery is always trying to be one step ahead and was the first brewery to be built from the ground up in Georgia and feature a kitchen as part of the business model. “We like to think we helped pioneer that movement in Georgia, and we continue to grow that model, most recently with the addition of our distillery.” Recently, they released their new terpene-infused spirits, available both in cocktails, on the rocks, and in bottles to go, plus their first bourbon.

The host of myriad events throughout the year, the brewery has something for everyone: trivia on Wednesdays, live music weekly and meetups, as well as a murder mystery beer and dinner party the Thursday before Halloween and Santa and Mrs. Claus during Avondale’s Winter Wonderland. AvondALE Day is October 21, so readers can come celebrate Avondale Estates being named the “Best Small-Town Beer Scene” for a third year in a row and to pick up a collectible glass.

Stacia loves the strong sense of community she feels with her team and customers, whom she considers extended family. “They really helped us through some rough times these past few years,” she says.

Olive & Pine

Olive & Pine is Avondale Estate’s newest community mixed-use development. Open for three months now, Olive & Pine features 10 businesses, including Akasa Salon, Leftie Lee’s (a pastry and sandwich shop), Wonderful World of Coffee and Tea, Brisk (a soft serve ice cream parlor), Office of Design and Little Gym. In the future, there will be food pop-ups with different chefs in the evenings, as well as NiteOwl Kitchen & Cocktail Bar, a tiki-style bar that serves pizza by the slice, which is slated to open this fall.

Andrew Rutledge, principal and founding partner at Decatur’s Office of Design, is the architect of the new development. “Olive & Pine is the adaptive reuse of a 1950s industrial warehouse, renovated and converted into a multi-use commercial space. We used the bones of the existing building to articulate the location of the new uses. There is a grand hall that cuts directly through the entire building from Olive to Pine Street. This acts as an interior pedestrian street, carrying visitors through and to the businesses. The grand hall also provides seating at tables that were designed by reusing salvaged steel from the building as the legs and supports and bowling alley lanes as the tabletops.”

Steven Chan, who is one-third of the development team behind Olive & Pine, discovered the old warehouse in 2019. He saw that Avondale Estates was lacking a retail epicenter, so he and his team set out to create a space that satiated this need. “The building offers a lot of mojo; it’s been around for 60 years. It has character — an old place that people feel comfortable in. Avondale Estates is the last stop before you get outside the [Atlanta] perimeter. I thought strategically, being on the eastern edge of the perimeter, we can capture visitors not just around Avondale, but also those coming from the east.” Chan is no stranger to developing successful businesses and spaces. He is the founder and CEO of the Asian-inspired restaurant chain Tin Drum Asian Kitchen and Ponce City Market’s Pancake Social. “I started these local restaurants 20 years ago. This October is our 20th anniversary! Throughout the years, there’ve been a lot of successes and failures. My education is in architecture. I’m from Hong Kong, so I grew up in a very urban setting. After college, I got into the restaurant business,” says Chan. However, he thrives on what he calls place-making and co-branding, and says he loves creating spaces that serve the community with amenities and programming. “I’m really excited about Olive & Pine as it’s a place for the community to take refuge. It belongs to them, especially during the week and on the weekend. Lots of young families are coming to enjoy this place.”

A family affair, Chan’s wife, Sylvia, opened her coffee shop, Wonderful World of Coffee and Tea, right in the development. “Expect really good coffee and tea. There are a variety of beverages with different personalities.” The shop boasts drinks from all over the world — London, Asia, Vietnam—and offers hot teas, matcha, coffee and refreshing drinks, like their strawberry fizz.

“Just seeing the business beginning to build is very satisfying. We’re here to serve the community. We see ourselves as the concierge of the community. Right in the corner of the development, Wonderful World would become the place where whatever ideas you have, we’ll try to make it happen for you.”

Chan foresees Olive & Pine being the backdrop for events, like concerts, the performing arts and book readings. “We have another vacant lot that is a quarter acre right next to Olive & Pine. When we stabilize Olive & Pine, I’m sure we will develop a vision for it… I’m looking forward to running into an opportunity where I can continue to work in Avondale Estates, as the city has been fantastic to work with.”

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