City Master Plan Helps Drive Innovative New Businesses

Courtesy of the Dunwoody Crier
Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 9:42 am | Updated: 10:26 am, Tue Jul 17, 2012.
By Fran Memberg For The Crier

The multi-million dollar renovation of Georgetown shopping center undertaken by management company Coro Realty Advisors meshes with the city of Dunwoody’s Georgetown/North Shallowford Master Plan, adopted in March 2011, that “outlines targeted initiatives to improve the ‘gateway’ appearance and create connectivity while encouraging high quality retail and meet the gaps in supply of housing for all ages,” according to information

“[Georgetown] sends a strong signal to other businesses that this area is a good place for investment and to do business,” said Michael Starling, the city’s economic development director. “Companies want to do business in Dunwoody if given the right environment.”

New Georgetown tenants Vino Venue, Farm Burger and Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream are good examples. All are set to open in early fall.

Vino Venue owner Michael Bryan is transplanting his 9-year-old Atlanta Wine School from Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell to Georgetown, and broadening the concept from a wine education center to include a wine bar, a wine store, a tapas restaurant and a culinary events facility.

“I wanted to get into a more upscale area, further south, and in a municipality that would allow dual alcohol licensing on one footprint,” said Bryan, explaining that separate licenses are required to pour wine and to sell retail bottled wine. In addition, Bryan was looking for adequate, and preferably free, parking for events, and easy access from a highway. Vino Venue will occupy Georgetown’s end cap storefront closest to I-285, allowing for signage on the buffer wall as well as patio space.

The Georgetown renovation and Dunwoody’s master plan for the area played a big part in Bryan’s decision to relocate here.

“The plan is all about upgrades. This is going to be the right place to be,” said Bryan, who lives in Dunwoody.

Except for some services and code regulations, such as fire and watershed that fall under DeKalb County jurisdiction, other construction issues requiring permits are in the city’s purview. “Dunwoody has that helpful spirit,” Bryan said.

Farm Burger and Morelli’s chose Georgetown as their first locations outside the Perimeter (OTP) mainly because of the renovations. Owners of both businesses were introduced to each other by a commercial real estate broker and will share a 3,000 square foot space in an area between Starbucks and Kroger.

“It’s a really good match for us,” said Morelli’s co-owner, Donald Sargent. “Burgers, fries and ice cream go hand-in-hand. It’s Americana.”

Sargent and his co-owner and wife, Clarissa Morelli, already operate two successful shops in intown areas East Atlanta Village and Little Five Points.

“OTP deserves good ice cream, too,” said Sargent. He and Morelli chose Georgetown over other areas they researched for expansion because of the investment Coro is making in the property.

Sargent said Morelli’s stands out from chain ice cream stores because of unique flavors, such as ginger lavender, rosemary olive oil and maple bacon brittle, as well as more traditional combinations like chocolate caramel. Raw ingredients are used instead of flavorings.

Farm Burger is the restaurant arm of a collective of farmers and ranchers whose mission is to provide local, sustainable and seasonal menu choices.

With successful locations in Decatur and Buckhead, owner George Frangos started looking for a third location at the beginning of 2012. Preliminary demographic surveys pointed to the Perimeter Center/Dunwoody Village area. Georgetown’s renovations were already underway.

Frangos said that was a “key component” in choosing Georgetown, adding, “You don’t want to be in a dying shopping center.” Frangos said he believes Georgetown is a convenient location to draw customers from both the Perimeter Center and Dunwoody Village areas.

Like Sargent, Frangos is keen on the Farm Burger collaboration that brings together two all-American favorites offered by like-minded companies that rely on the freshest ingredients. “There is good synergy between what we do and what they do,” said Frangos.

Farm Burger/Morelli’s is awaiting final permits from Dunwoody to begin construction, and Frangos said negotiations are proceeding smoothly. “It’s easy to operate where there’s a city that wants to support local business,” he said.

Residents are already taking notice of Farm Burger’s.

“Part of our mission is to be a part of a neighborhood and the community,” said Frangos. “People walk by [the Georgetown space] and tell us about going to the other locations. It’s nice that there’s already a welcoming buzz [in Dunwoody].”