DECEMBER 2021 • VOL. 13 — NO. 12
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Making Black History The fantastic and divine art of Shanequa Gay P.16
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Contents FEBRUARY 2022
Editor’s Note Sandy Springs Luxury apartment plans
Andrew Young event
Buckhead Tackling Buckhead City
BeltLine secures funding
Dunwoody Mural at Brook Run Park
Brookhaven Buford Highway designation
Remembering Dick Williams
City Centre ideas
Arts Film festival goes virtual
Artwork of Shanequa Gay
Atlanta Drum Academy
History month celebrations
Commentary Worth Knowing
Dining New brewery in Sandy Springs 21
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About the Cover Shanequa Gay infuses her artwork with an “ethereal majesty,” according to contributor Isadora Pennington, who photographed the artist in her College Park studio for this month’s cover and feature on Page 16.
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Playing in the snow! When the forecast called for snow on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, I got really excited. Finally, something fun! 2022 hasn’t been the easiest so far. We entered the new year right into another COVID-19 spike (thanks Omicron). This time, it really seemed like everyone was getting sick. For me, it was my mom and dad. My sisters. My friends, colleagues. Whew, the first few weeks of 2022 were heavy. But then, a chance of snow! It was so wonderful to see our communities with a fresh BY AMY WENK blanket of snow, even if it didn’t last too long. I especially loved seeing your snow pictures. Sandy Springs resident Rachel Poole sent in pictures of her three kids: Jordyn (14), Nathan (6), and Austin (2). It was Austin’s very first time playing in the snow! And, we were especially impressed that Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst was able to craft a full-sized snowman, complete with a city-branded umbrella. So here’s hoping the rest of 2022 is a bit more carefree, with more time for fun!
4 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
CORRECTION In the January issue, the “20 under 20” feature used the wrong picture of Kira Berzack of The Weber School. Here’s her full story with the correct photo. We regret the error.
Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and his snowman.
Rachel Poole’s three kids: Jordyn (14), Nathan (6), and Austin (2).
As a freshman in high school, Kira got involved with Friendship Circle and Gigi’s Playhouse where she organized and facilitated a variety of events for individuals with special needs. These two organizations strive to create friendship in the lives of individuals with special needs and those facing isolation while providing an opportunity to become a contributing member of the community. Through Kira’s commitment, she Kira Berzack of The Weber School. aims to promote an inclusive community that values all individuals regardless of the challenges they face. She also teaches a weekly music and dance therapy class for adolescents with Down Syndrome. Helping the underprivileged in her ancestral home of South Africa included donating clothes, cooking dinner for an all-girls shelter, and bringing dinner to homeless individuals while on family visits. She also volunteers at the Breman Jewish Home, helping serve meals, playing bingo, and reading to residents. “I’ve noticed that when you shift the focus from yourself to serving others, you are able to experience a more gratifying form of joy,” Kira said. “The experiences, love, relationships, and skills I have gained through my volunteering will stay with me forever and will continue to influence my actions.”
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Luxury apartments planned for Roswell Road BY AMY WENK A luxury apartment project is planned for a vacant shopping center in Sandy Springs. San Diego, Calif.based Fairfield Residential is planning a 286-unit multifamily project at 7300 Roswell Road. Known as the North Springs Center, the roughly 9-acre site was once anchored by Big Lots. “I think the style of A rendering of the apartment project planned for that previous retail deSandy Springs. (Special/Fairfield Residential) velopment just really ly communities in Sandy Springs, repwasn’t attractive to retailers in today’s resenting almost 3,000 units. For those marketplace,” said Tommy Brunson, projects, the average monthly rent was president of development and construc$1,771, or $1.93 per square foot. At that tion for Fairfield Residential. “To me, this time, the occupancy rate of those propis a higher and better use for the real eserties was 97.5%. tate.” “Those communities are well leased Brunson said they were drawn to the and are achieving strong rents, which Sandy Springs site due to its transportasuggests there is pent-up demand for tion access and the quality of the commore apartments in certain parts of the munity. city,” said Ladson Haddow with Haddow “Hopefully, we’re cleaning up the eye& Company. sore,” he said. “We spent a lot of time CoStar Group says the Sandy Springs/ with the Sandy Springs staff … That planDunwoody market has seen year-overning process has taken well over a year.” year rent growth of 22.5%, well above the Demolition of the shopping center metro Atlanta average of 17.5%. should start in about 30 days, Brunson “The recent lack of new supply, cousaid. The project will feature a mix of pled with the surge in demand for housstudio, one- and two-bedroom aparting over the past year and a half, has alments, with an average size of just under lowed for owners to raise rents at a faster 1,000 square feet. It will also offer townpace than the metro average recently,” home-style, two-story units with 1,600 to said David Kahn, Southeast director of 2,000 square feet. market analytics for CoStar Group. Fairfield’s project will be the first new However, rents in Sandy Springs and apartment complex in Sandy Springs Dunwoody (which CoStar says average since the Adley City Springs delivered in $1,721/month) are still more affordable 2020, according to Atlanta-based real esthan intown markets such as Midtown tate consulting firm Haddow & Company. ($2,110/month) and Buckhead ($2,042/ Last summer, Haddow & Compamonth). ny surveyed the ten newest multifami-
Chamber to feature Andrew Young In honor of Black History Month, the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber will host a luncheon with Ambassador Andrew Young. The event is set for Feb. 9 at City Springs. Young was an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement and confidant to Martin Luther King Jr. He’s served as a member of the U.S. Congress, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and a two-term mayor of Atlanta. He later established the Andrew J. Young Foundation, which focuses on education and human rights issues. “You can give him credit for a lot of things that really made this city a global city, from his work with the expansion of the airport, as well as his key role in bringing the Olympics here in 1996,” said Cory Jackson, a senior vice president with Truist who leads the chamber’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. Young, who will turn 90 in March, will discuss topics including civil rights and the work of his foundation. Registration is required for the event.
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6 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
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FEBRUARY 2022 | 7
New mayor, city council tackling Buckhead secession head on
FEBRUARY 16–27 17
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens unveils the new Buckhead police precinct. (Special/City of Atlanta) BY COLLIN KELLEY AND AMY WENK
8 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
New Mayor Andre Dickens and the radically changed Atlanta City Council went to work the same day they took their oaths of office on Jan. 3. At the top of the agenda: keeping the city unified. The Buckhead cityhood movement was delt a serious blow last month when Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan assigned the bill to a Senate committee made up entirely of Democrats, who are likely to bottle it up. However, at press time, a similar bill is also in the Georgia House where it will get a more welcome reception from Republicans, many who are championing the Buckhead secession movement. Dickens said he was “elated” by Duncan’s move but said during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day address that he also wasn’t “naïve” about the potential for Buckhead cityhood to reach the referendum stage this fall. Within days of his inauguration, Dickens also unveiled a new Atlanta Police precinct in Buckhead. The move was in direct response to proponents of Buckhead cityhood who have listed crime as their main reason for secession. Located near the intersection of West Paces Ferry and Peachtree roads, the Zone 2 mini-precinct will be focused on traffic calls to allow other officers to patrol Buckhead and handle more serious crimes. The Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead CID are contributing $150,000 for the buildout of the space. It’s expected to have at least a dozen officers by summer 2022. The Atlanta City Council also took steps to win back the hearts and minds of Buckhead residents at its first full meeting on Jan. 18. The council voted 14-1 to establish a Buckhead Public Safety Task Force. Newly-seated Councilmember Mary Norwood and Councilmember Michael Julian Bond introduced the legislation. Norwood said the task force would operate for 90 days and include law enforcement, business, and community leaders, who will
come up with a strategy to combat crime in Buckhead. Dickens continued his push to squash the cityhood effort by speaking to the Georgia House on Jan. 24. “I want to have the best relationship with this body that you could ever have with a mayor,” he told members of the House. “We share a common goal: To keep this state and its cities moving forward … As a city, we are stronger together. One city. One city with one bright future.” That same day, the Committee for a United Atlanta, which opposes the cityhood ef-
The Atlanta City Council at the swearingin ceremony. (Special/City of Atlanta) fort, released a poll that showed waning support for the proposed Buckhead City. The poll, which surveyed 400 registered Buckhead voters, showed that 51% oppose breaking off from Atlanta and 40% support it. Cityhood leader Bill White, CEO and chairman of the Buckhead Exploratory Committee, pushed back on the numbers. He said their last poll showed that 72% of Buckhead voters support a public vote on the issue of cityhood. “Voters should not allow our opponents’ half-truths and fear mongering to impact their sacred right to vote for (or against) their own destiny,” he said.
BeltLine secures $300 million to complete trail by 2030 BY COLLIN KELLEY The Atlanta BeltLine has secured $300 million in local, federal, and philanthropic funds to complete the trail by 2030. The funding will be used for real estate acquisition, design, and construction of the 22-mile paved multi-use trail. In a statement, BeltLine officials said the $300 million mark was crossed less than one year after the Atlanta City Council, approved legislation creating a Special Service District (SSD) to tax commercial properties and apartment complexes along the BeltLine. Bonds financed by the SSD along with the additional tax will generate a total of $100 million. “Passage of the SSD and the subsequent funding it has unlocked are critical to keeping the overall BeltLine project on track,” Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI) CEO Clyde Higgs said in the statement. “They provide the financial certainty we need to proceed aggressively with trail implementation and allow us to use TAD funds to advance the full BeltLine vision, including affordable housing, transit, parks, art, and equitable economic development.” Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP)
port, and up to $150 million in construction and design funds targeted towards minority-owned contractors. Completion of the trail corridor is expected to deliver a total economic impact of $10 billion and approximately 50,000 permanent jobs for the City of Atlanta. Officials said an additional $50 million is needed by 2030 to fully complete the corridor and they would be working to secure the remaining funds from local, federal, and philanthropic resources.
also secured an $80 million contribution from The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation to help fund the completion of the trail and the Legacy Resident Retention Program, which mitigates displacement by assisting homeowners with property tax increases through 2030. In November, the City of Atlanta and ABI also received a $16.46 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of
Transportation for construction of the Southside Trail. In accordance with ABI’s equity and inclusion priorities, the passage of the SSD enables up to $45 million in additional affordable housing funds, up to $12 million in additional small business sup-
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First permanent mural unveiled for Brook Run Park
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10 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
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the center sent along the list of Amplify submissions so Dunwoody officials could use that list for future art installations. The city’s Art Commission approved Watters’ proposal for the “Be Kind” mural on Nov. 2. “The location at the back of Brook Run has been of particular interest to community members calling for a mural along that wall and the Be Kind proLocal artist Megan Watters created the mural “Be Kind” posal from Megan was at Brook Run Park. (Special/Megan Watters) a perfect fit with the use of bold colors and BY SAMMIE PURCELL the proximity to the bee hives,” said a The first permanent mural at Dunspokesperson for the Dunwoody Economwoody’s Brook Run Park aims to inspire ic Development department. residents to be kind not just to each other, Parks and Recreation Director Brent but to their environment too. Walker said the city hopes to do more perThe new mural is called “Be Kind,” manent art installations in parks around and sits near the Barclay Drive entrance the city, and said there will be a public art to the park, according to the city of Dunwoody. Local artist Megan Watters said she painted the piece in part to help teach residents about the importance of bees in a community. “Murals and art … they’re supposed to be beautiful, they’re supposed to be enjoyed,” Watters said. “But it’s also really important to have a call to action.” Watters spent 10 years in New York City where she painted community murals and worked on the famous Macy’s Holiday Windows. Watters said while in New York, she became interested in environmentalism, an interest she carried back with her to Georgia. “I was doing that kind of work in New York, and I was really interested in that,” she said. “Once I learned about the call for art here in Dunwoody, I knew that I kind of wanted to hit it at that angle.” Waters said she was inspired by Bee Dunwoody, the city’s initiative to help make the city safe for polcomponent to the master plans for the linators. An official statement from the city’s two new parks, one on Roberts Drive Dunwoody Nature Center on Bee Dunand one on Vermack Road. woody said that the initiative was “hap“We want to continue to put in not just py to provide inspiration for this beautipaintings and murals, but sculpture and ful mural and hopes it will draw attention all that kind of stuff throughout the park to the beehives and the important work system,” Walker said. of the Dunwoody Nature Center and Bee Watters said she hopes the mural Dunwoody.” serves as inspiration for visitors to Brook According to a Dunwoody spokesperRun Park. son, the city first became aware of Wat“I hope it puts a smile on their face,” ters when she applied for the Spruill Censhe said. “It’s not just being kind to other ter for the Arts’ annual Amplify contest. people, but being kind to themselves, beAlthough Spruill did not select Watters, ing kind to the environment.” reporternewspapers.com
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Buford Highway dubbed ‘Cultural Corridor’ BY SAMMIE PURCELL Brookhaven has designated Buford Highway as a cultural hub of the city. During a January meeting, the Brookhaven City Council adopted a resolution to name the city’s portion of Buford Highway as the “Buford Highway Cultural Corridor.” According to the resolution, the recommendation comes from the city’s Arts and Culture Master Plan. “The Arts and Culture Commission worked with staff to draft a resolution that recognizes Buford Highway as a unique, multi-diverse area of the city and celebrates its rich heritage,” said Planning and Zoning Manager Aronda Smith. “We strive to celebrate all cultures and ethnic groups within the Buford Highway Corridor.” The resolution names a few recommendations for the area from the city’s Arts and Culture Master Plan, such as installing gateway signs, holding an annual international festival, collaborat-
ing with local nonprofits such as We Love BuHi and the Latin American Association. It also suggests using areas along the Peachtree Creek Greenway for music and other programming. “This is something that I think
Brookhaven should be very proud of,” said District 4 Councilmember John Funny. “This is yet again another effort that we’re stepping ahead to show that we are a welcoming city.”
Williams remembered as iconic journalist BY AMY WENK Longtime Atlanta journalist Dick Williams has died. Williams, 77, died Jan. 20 from congestive heart failure, according to the AJC. He was the retired editor and publisher of the Dunwoody Crier newspaper and former host of “The Georgia Gang” talk show on FOX 5. Williams had bought the Dunwoody Crier in 1996 and is credited with helping with the creation of the City of Dunwoody. And his wife, the late Rebecca Chase Williams, was considered the “founding mother” of Brookhaven where she served as a mayor and city council member. Williams had sold the Crier in 2019 to Appen Media Group. Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she knew Williams for more than 20 years. “While he had a long list of impressive journalistic accomplishments, I hope he will be remembered most for his work in local journalism,” Deutsch said in a statement. “As the host of ‘The Georgia Gang’ and publisher of the Dunwoody Crier, he was the epitome of a hometown journalist. Through his coverage in the Crier, Dick was instrumental in the successful creation of the City of Dunwoody. He built the Crier into a real community newspaper, and his impact is still felt today.” Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst said Williams was a “tireless watchdog” who
12 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
City Centre to prioritize connectivity Brookhaven’s new City Centre project is expected to prioritize walkability, connectivity, and outdoor spaces. During a work session in January, the city’s planning commission heard a presentation from Bob Hughes with the architectural firm HGOR. According to Hughes, the City Centre will be less of a condensed downtown area and more of a linear group of public spaces and developments connected by a trail network. That’s due to Brookhaven’s geography. “It’s a very unique situation,” Hughes said. “You have almost three rivers running simultaneously next to one another. You have railroad tracks, you have MARTA tracks, and you have a big, wide Peachtree Road. The three of those put together really does divide the city from one side to the other.” There were no formal plans for where specific features, such as a City Hall, might be located. But Hughes said he thought a good spot for a City Hall might be close to where Brookhaven Park sits now. Hughes described the theoretical City Centre not as a grouping of multiplestory buildings, but more of a connected group of public spaces. The presentation offered ideas on how to make the periphery of Peachtree Road more walkable, such as creating a “Beltline” type multi-use path on one side. Hughes also brought up the idea of adding pedestrian and bike paths over Peachtree Road. A public meeting about the recommendations was set for Jan. 26. Results of that meeting were not available at press time.
Joan Jett to perform at Cherry Blossom Festival
Dick Williams and Lori Geary on “The Georgia Gang.” (Special/Lori Geary) held the government accountable. “His dedication to the ideals of honesty, integrity and service were the foundation upon his life’s work,” Ernst said in a statement to Reporter Newspapers. “In fact, Dick and Rebecca’s expectation that governments could and should do a better job was a catalyst in the creation of Brookhav-
en itself. Dick’s legacy are those ideals in which this City was founded upon. I will personally miss our random and irreverent conversations about world events, news of the weird, or most often, the latest on the Atlanta Hawks. My prayers remain with his beloved family during this very difficult time.”
Rockers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will headline Brookhaven’s 2022 Cherry Blossom Festival, according to a city press release. The music and arts festival will take place March 26-27 at Blackburn Park at 3493 Ashford Dunwoody Road. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are set to play on March 26. “Once again, our partnership with Live Nation in booking another home run has paid off tremendously,” said Mayor John Ernst in the press release. The city canceled its annual festival in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In place of the 2021 festival, the city held a Cherry Blossom Summer Block Party as a way to celebrate the city’s resilience during the pandemic, specifically those in the food and music industries. Admission to the festival is free, and other performers are expected to be announced soon. — BRIEFS BY SAMMIE PURCELL reporternewspapers.com BK
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Atlanta Jewish Film Festival to go virtual BY SAMMIE PURCELL After announcing its opening dates a few weeks ago, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival will go completely virtual due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. The 22nd annual festival was originally slated to take place both in-person and online, with screenings at the Plaza Theatre, Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema. the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, and online in the festival’s virtual cinema. However, in light of rising COVID-19 cases and the Omicron variant, the festival will be completely virtual. “We’ve spent the better part of this past year planning for and fully expecting a return to theaters for our 22nd edition,” said AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank in an emailed statement. “But we recognize
the evolving circumstances of the pandemic, and our first obligation is to community safety. Fortunately, we are well positioned to offer audiences the full festival experience from the comfort of home.” The festival will still take place from Feb. 16-27, offering over 50 films from 18 countries. Some feature films set to play at the festival are “The Survivor,” starring Danny DeVito, Peter Sarsgaard, and Vicky Krieps, and a documentary called “Women of Valor.” The festival will also still continue its new shorts program, and release a new short film on every Wednesday leading up to the festival. All the shorts will be available to watch on the festival’s website. Some of the short films featured in the festival will be “Meadow” from director Klil
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Kenny Blank.
Kovesh, “My Kippah” from director Ilan Rosenfeld, and “Sophie and Jacob” from director Max Shoham. “We join our fellow movie lovers in longing for the day we can be back in front of the big screen,” Blank said in an email. “Until then, we feel privileged to share the gift of cinematic stories with festival goers in our Virtual Cinema, where they can choose their passion, pursue and journey through this year’s extraordinary film lineup.” Tickets go on sale on Feb. 9 online. More information about how to stream films can be found on the festival’s website. Reporter Newspapers/Atlanta Intown is a media partner for the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
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The fantastic and divine art of Shanequa Gay Gay grew up in a deeply religious household cloaked by belief (her mother is a pastor), and while she doesn’t untie herself from her Christian background, she has given herself permission to ask questions in a way that she was not allowed to as a child. The elements of fantasy that arise in Gay’s work highlight a disparity in popular culture: the lack of portrayals of Black women as protagonists, especially in fantasy and futuristic worlds. “The only time I ever saw women who look like me in space travel was ‘Star Trek,’” said Gay. “Very rarely are we centered, so I wondered, what does that look like?” In essence, these works that cross between realism in the depictions of female form, recognizable representations of the African American and specifically southern Black experience, animal iconography, and bold, graphic design elements, constitute an on-going conversation that Gay has with herself. At times
“the unnameable, unspeakable divine ascension”
BY ISADORA PENNINGTON What does fantasy look like from the perspective of a strong, confident, southern Black woman? That’s just one of the questions that multimedia artist Shanequa Gay asks with her work. Inspired by her family history and African American traditions, Gay embraces a sense of play when conceptualizing her colorful works. Using a range of materials that include oil paints, acrylics, photographs, watercolors, fabric, spray paint, vinyl, and even hair weave, she crafts figural works that pose openended questions and entice the viewer to consider their own perceptions. Hybridity is a theme that Gay explored in her work for more than a decade. Her first body of work that involved hybridity was called “The Fair Game Project” and dealt with social issues surrounding the African American male body. Ultimately, Gay began experiencing outrage fatigue and moved away from the theme, though she never abandoned the concepts behind the work. Later,
16 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
when pursuing her MFA from Georgia State University, she found herself reevaluating the work she produces. “Hybridity wasn’t something I wanted to let go,” she said, and she found ways to explore that theme in new ways. Gay’s current body of work features Black women’s bodies topped with otherworldly animal heads often in celestial settings. She explained that by combining two figures that are sometimes villainized in popular culture to create whimsical and wise characters she was able to grant them an ethereal majesty. “I began to develop these figures called the ‘devouts’ by kind of pulling from the women in my family and ancestors and those who are living: my mom, my grandmother, my aunts,” Gay continued. “They all have these characteristics of strength, of elegance, and of beauty.” The animals she chose also exhibit those same virtues, and by uniting them she magnifies their significance. “Currently they have these kind of gazing ancestral eyes, and all sorts of tropes of what it means to me to be African Atlantan,” said Gay.
Gay is also inspired by a conversation between Gloria Steinem and bell hooks in which Steinem talked about how, over the course of 3,000 years, Egyptians began to take divinity away from women and animals. Hooks then talked about how African Americans cannot ever truly decolonize their minds if they can’t imagine themselves as divine. Gay’s portrait subjects have a majestic air about them, observing, celebrating, and uplifting icons of Blackness. She wants to grant women and girl-child figures a “language of divinity” as well as celebrate native animals. reporternewspapers.com BK
“Mother Johnston’s Front Yard”
“What Remains” at Mint Gallery
she uses her artwork and her platform to bring attention to worthy causes that are often devastating in nature. One such example is an altar of sorts that she created with paper flower artist Bolanle Pace to honor the life of a young Clark Atlanta University woman, Alexis Crawford, who was brutalized and murdered by her roommate and her boyfriend. The exhibition at Mint gallery back in 2019 featured a stark black wall and floor that was painted with the woman’s portrait and complemented by paper flowers. Gay then encouraged visitors to write notes on flower petals to honor lost, missing, and murdered Black girls. Another particularly moving and haunting work was the 2016 “Ode to Kathryn Johnson” performance piece where Gay donned a blue bull head and read poetry, danced, sang, prayed, and shared readings. The intent of this exhibition was to bring attention to the life of Kathryn Johnson, the 92-year-old Black woman killed by Atlanta police officers
during an illegally obtained warrant who later planted drugs in the house. “Being able to stretch myself in my work is really important,” Gay said. “I don’t want to be stagnant, so the ability to be able to speak about different things through different media is really important to me. That is who I have been all my life. Growing up I wrote plays, I wrote poems, I played violin, I painted, I sang, I danced, I was the drill team captain… I did 50 million things as a kid, so being able to engage and speak in a variety of different ways has always been important to me.” With an extensive CV that includes more than 16 solo exhibitions, 17 group shows, 20-plus listed collections (including Elton John), along with 12 listed awards and grants, Gay is certainly an esteemed and prolific artist. In October 2021 she participated in an Afflux Transnational Black Biennial called Monde Bossale in Quebec, Canada. The exhibition sought to highlight Black communities and their contributions to
the contemporary art world, and the invitation to exhibit highlights just how instrumental and important Gay’s work is both locally and abroad. At press time, Gay had just been notified that she was invited to participate in the 59th annual Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious art exhibitions in the world. “There is a lack of people who look like me in a lot of spaces that are white walled with only white males. My narrative belongs there as much as anyone else’s,” affirmed Gay. “I belong there, I think I belong in the canon. I believe in my work enough to be bold enough to say we can send this out into the world.” “Carewatch”
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Atlanta Drum Academy is a family affair for kids and teens BY CLARE S. RICHIE At a rainy Sunday rehearsal in early January, about two dozen members of Lil’ Rascalz drumline grouped by drum were hard at work with a joy and pride in their efforts. Parents, siblings, and caregivers of the 3 to 12-year-olds watched from the hall or seated on mats inside a metro karate dojo, where the Atlanta Drum Academy (ADA) meets since it outgrew its space. “New students, I’m gonna put you on the drum that fits your skill set,’ said James Riles III, ADA Executive Director, arranging students on the snare, bass, tenor, duo, and other kits. “You are here to be part of a family.” All eyes were on Riles as he taught skills, crescendo and footwork “with swag” in a manner that was inspiring, strict and fun. Riles’ teenage sons, Sadarien and Darius, moved through the drumline to provide personalized instruction. An hour later, The Squad drumline, ages 13 to 18, started to arrive for their rehearsal. “Listen to each other,” Riles instructed the drummers. “Many drums should sound like one.” The drumlines are preparing for competitions. The Squad traveled to the Clash of the Drumlines in Dallas, Texas in late January. Lil’ Rascalz have two coming up in Georgia: Millennium Live ATL on Feb. 20 and Georgia Has Talent, a cancer research fundraiser on March 12. And ADA is working on a reality show pitch for Netflix. “We’ve already filmed a lot of the performances and now we are filming the kids’ and parents’ testimonials,” Riles said. He was also a performer and composer for the movies “Drumline” and “Drumline 2: A New Beat.” Sparked by his love of playing and teaching drums, Riles started ADA in 2011
Members of the Atlanta Drum Academy. to offer lessons and prepare drumlines to perform and compete. “I’ve been playing drums all of my life,” Riles said. “My parents purchased my first real drum set when I was 5 – a drum set they had to take out a loan to purchase.” Growing up, Riles performed for family, at church and in school concerts, marching and jazz bands – which earned him a scholarship to Morris Brown College. “In 1999, I had my first chance to teach at a summer camp, Camp New Beginnings,” Riles said. “I just fell in love with teaching and that’s what I’ve been doing since.” Riles taught in Clayton County Public Schools for 10 years, starting a drum program while at Lake Ridge Elementary. Today, ADA drummers come from all over metro Atlanta – Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett counties and more – drawn in by social media, word of mouth and ADA performances.
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cent VH-I holiday movie, “Miracles Across 125th Street.” “She has the same work ethic as Jasmine,” Riles said. “Playing drums is usually dominated by males so when a female comes in, I guess they feel they have to work two times as hard to prove themselves.” Riles is ready to take ADA to the next level by purchasing a building easily accessible by MARTA, offering more classes, and serving more kids in a safe space. “We want it to have a game room, a family life center where our parents can come and use computers, a gym and classrooms so kids can learn how to produce, take pictures – anything dealing with the arts,” Riles said. All this is done with the motto of “Pray and Play.”
Atlanta Drum Academy on “Little Big Shots” show.
ADA’s big break came in 2018, when a dozen kids ages 5 to 13 performed on “NBC’s Little Big Shots” with Steve Harvey. “It was a big hit on social media. We got a lot of exposure from it. It was hard because I could only take like 12 students and I have 50-60 students at a time, so I had to make choices.” He also made the choice to leave teaching in 2018 to pursue ADA full-time. His drummers have continued to capture attention. Former ADA Section Leader Jasmine Bowens earned a scholarship to Hampton University and appeared in friendly snare drum battle on YouTube at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bowens joined ADA as a 5th grader. “ADA is not just an organization to me, but a family that encourages respect, sacrifices, heart and selflessness, and this is why I play,” Bowens said. Destiny Boyd, who joined ADA in high school, played Mika in Nick Cannon’s re-
James Riles III with sons & ADA co-owners Sedarien, left, and Darius.
“We believe that the gift of drumming comes from God and we dedicate our gifts back to God,” Riles said. “We’ve been to so many places and done so many things that if it wasn’t for God blessing us with ADA, we would have never done it.” Learn more on Facebook (Atlanta Drumacademy) or atldrumacademy.com.
Murals to celebrate Black, women’s history months
Commissioned murals from 2021.
BY SAMMIE PURCELL Brook Run Park will once again play host to murals celebrating Black and women’s history months this February and March. A rotating group of murals will be placed around the Brook Run Skate Park, located at 4770 N. Peachtree Road. This is the second year the city will display murals of this sort, having commis-
with this mural idea, not only kind of celebrating that month – Black History Month, Women’s History Month – but doing it in a way where families could come out and see the artwork.” Atlanta artist LeMarques Manuel McClide, 34, painted a mural last year and one of his murals will be featured in the
group at Brook Run Park this year. McClide said his mural for this year will focus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington in 1963. “It’s basically realism mixed with abstract,” McClide said. “I have different signs that were part of the March on Washington, which is significant be-
cause it was one of the greatest demonstrations in the world, and he brought a lot of people together. So it’s an iconic image.” Walker said the murals for Black History Month will be unveiled on Feb. 1, and the murals for Women’s History Month will be unveiled on March 1.
Builder: Arlene Dean Homes | Design: Jones Design
Atlanta-based artist LeMarques Manuel McClide. sioned murals for the same purpose last year. Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said the idea for the murals stemmed out of a desire for the city to have programming and something for residents to do outside during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wanted to do something that could be self-guided, on your own time,” Walker said. “That’s where we came up @reporter_newspapers BK
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The power of believing: Dawg Nation breaks the curse In sports, certain defining moments become frozen in time. One of Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and those was on writes whose lives inspire others. Contact her at email@example.com. Nov.about 2, people when Dansby Swanson threw the ball to Freddie Freeman for the final out of the 2021 World Series. After a BY CAROL NIEMI quarter-century drought, we were finally the world champions. But that moment meant something else to us in the Bulldog Nation. it isaasign CarolWas Niemi marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoodythat we would finally breakSandy “the Springs curse” line of and writes about people whose lives inspire Nick Saban and accomplish what had her at firstname.lastname@example.org. others.we Contact been yearning for since 1981, the last time we won a national championship? We The University of Georgia won the national championship on Jan. 10. (Special/Mackenzie Miles, UGA) were already ranked #1. The only thing between us and our goal was another matchthings were anything but normal. ferred to a junior college up with our nemesis. By now, everyone knows the story of for more playing time. It would be five long weeks before we Stetson Bennett IV, the kid from BlacksHe returned to Georgia reached our moment. hear who had dreamed of quarterbacking when Kirby Smart believed After two years of a national pandemic for Georgia since childhood. At only 5’11”, in him enough to offer him and widespread civil unrest, the only place he joined the team as a walk-on, but after a scholarship. Even then, things still seemed normal was the playing a year of playing on the scout team, transhe didn’t get his break unfield. But between the hedges in Athens, til the vaunted starter from
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Southern Cal was injured and he, Stetson Bennett IV, had to step in. The social media mob went into high gear and stayed there – even as Bennett proceeded to lead the team to an undefeated season. Relentlessly, they slammed him for not being up to the job and Smart for not replacing him. Some of the sports pundits did too. For those of us in the Bulldog Nation who believed in Bennett and Smart, the attacks felt personal. Why, after all we and the country had been through, could they not just be happy for us? But on the night of Dec. 4 in the 2021 SEC championship, Alabama humiliated our beloved Bulldogs 41-24. How could we, the country’s #1 team, play so poorly? Maybe the naysayers were right. Maybe we were never that good after all. You could hear hearts breaking throughout the Bulldog Nation, which had grown to include many who had never set foot in Athens. But hope springs eternal in the heart of a “Damn Good Dog.” We got the chance to redeem ourselves in the CFP playoff series, in which we demolished the University of Michigan and earned another crack at Alabama in the CFP championship game scheduled for Jan. 10, 2022. The only thing between us and the prize we had been chasing was Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, with its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young.
Our soon-to-be-frozen moment occurred in the last minute of that game. We were ahead, but Bama had the ball near our endzone. Would this be a repeat of our shocking overtime loss to Alabama in the 2018 CFP? Miraculously, with only 54 seconds to play, freshman Kelee Ringo intercepted a Bryce Young pass and ran 79 yards to put us ahead 33-18. As the clock ticked down, it started to dawn on us that after 41 years, we were going to end our seven-game losing streak to Alabama and bring the national trophy back to Athens, where we always thought it belonged. Now that the joyful parade and celebration in Athens are behind us, we can look back at that moment when everything first became real. It was just about perfect. Herschel Walker and Vince Dooley were there. Kirby Smart was bringing glory back to his alma mater. In the background from Athens was the sound of the chapel bell ring-
(Special/Mackenzie Miles, UGA) ing. And on the sidelines was Bennett crying. A post-game commentator said four out of every six Bulldog fans in the stands were crying. I was crying. So was the friend watching with me. The national pundits said they were tears of joy, but as a certified Georgia Bulldog, I think they were tears of redemption. After 41 years of trying and believing, despite being told we weren’t good enough, it took all of us – the players, the coaches and the fans – never giving up to prove the critics wrong. That night, based on the text messages flooding my phone, everyone I knew was a Bulldog, no matter where they went to school. The new season starts in six months. Bennett has announced he’s coming back. Stay tuned.
First look: Mutation Brewing Co. BY AMY WENK A new brewery has opened overlooking a busy stretch of Roswell Road, featuring a speakeasy and a rooftop bar. Mutation Brewing Co. was expected to open Jan. 28 in Sandy Springs. It occupies a roughly 9,000-square-foot space with two levels of outdoor space. The interior has an industrial vibe with a large Ushaped bar. Two childhood friends from Alpharetta, Jack Poole and Chris Shapiro, are behind Mutation Brewing. Shapiro’s wife, Leslie, and brother, Michael, are also involved in the business. “It’s a perfect partnership,” Shapiro said during a tour in late January. He and Jack were homebrewers for years before and are now excited to share their recipes with the public. That includes a signature brew called the Mile High Salute, a sour beer made from purple corn from Peru. It’s a nod to a traditional Peruvian beverage called Chicha Morada that’s made from purple corn, fruit and spices. “We took the same recipe and made it into a beer,” said Shapiro, who is half Peruvian. He described the beer as tasting “sweet, sour and savory.” Poole added that the brewery will offer a full spectrum of beer styles, as well as hard seltzers. For example, there’s a double IPA called the Atlanta Traffic Elixir, what Shapiro called “the cure for the common commuter.” Roswell-based Spiced Right Barbecue
Jack Poole and Chris Shapiro of Mutation Brewing Co.
will also operate a new location out of the brewery. Mutation becomes just the second brewery in Sandy Springs. The other is Pontoon Brewing Co. “We just love the area,” Poole said of
Sandy Springs, adding city officials have been very supportive of the new business. “Their city government has made this an incredible experience.” Mutation will join the growing number of craft breweries across the state.
There are around 130 in Georgia, according to a 2020 study by the Brewers Association. That ranks the state 21st in the nation for the number of breweries.
Quick bites: Buckhead food hall, Persian restaurant fer sit-down dining, pick-up and local meal delivery for the Buckhead community. Customers will be able to mix and match food items from different vendors, paying for them in a single transaction. “Instead of the traditional food court, we’re bringing together the world’s leading chefs to develop a unique set of culinary brands and menu items that elevate fast casual dining,” said Sam Nazarian, founder and CEO of C3. ▲A new food hall at Phipps Plaza is moving forward. A building permit was filed Jan. 13 for Citizens, a roughly 25,000-square-foot food hall that’s part of a larger expansion at the upscale Buckhead mall. Citizens is expected to open in November, according to Phipps owner Simon Property Group. The concept is from a company called C3 (Creating Culinary Communities). It opened its first two food halls last fall in New York and Miami. In Atlanta, the food hall is expected to feature food brands such as Umami Burger, Krispy Rice and Sam’s Crispy Chicken. It will utilize a ghost kitchen model to of@reporter_newspapers BK
Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar is expected to open in Dunwoody in February. A spokesperson for the restaurant confirmed the restaurant, which features dishes like burgers and fried chicken, will open at Perimeter Mall on Feb. 9. “We are thrilled to join the Dunwoody community and bring our style of hospitality and delicious food to the neighborhood,” said Chris Simms, founder and CEO of Lazy Dog, in a press release. “The team, the guests, and the community are the reason why we do what we do – to offer a dining experience that feels like family.” The restaurant interiors will be inspired by Jackson Hole, WY, with rustic, mountain-inspired decor. The restaurant will
feature a full bar and a menu with items such as barbeque bison meatloaf, cheddar cheese curds, deviled eggs, and more.
▲A new Persian restaurant called Yalda is set for Aria Village in Sandy Springs. It’s eyeing a late March or early April opening, said a spokesperson. “My business partner, Farhan Kheraj, and I are very excited to bring our concept to fruition,” said Ashkan Familli. “Yalda is a Persian concept with Mediterranean emphases. Picture contemporary tapas or as
well call it, Meze. Our menu will offer a variety of meats and seafood and our craft cocktails are inspired by traditional Persian ingredients.” Another location is planned for West Midtown. A beloved Italian restaurant is coming to Dunwoody. Grana, a southern Italian restaurant located at 1835 Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta, will open a second location at the new Ashford Lane Shopping Center in Dunwoody, according to a post from the restaurant’s Instagram account. “We couldn’t be more excited to share with you all that we are bringing Grana to the Perimeter,” reads the post. “Our Grana family has been so lucky to grow with this community and we look forward to continuing to bring authentic Southern Italian cuisine to the Atlanta area.” Pasquale Pascarella, the owner and chef at Grana, also teased the opening on his own account. “I promised this year was going to be full of surprises,” he wrote. The new location is set to open up by the end of 2022. FEBRUARY 2022 | 21
Nobu Hotel & Restaurant eyes late summer opening
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▲A new luxury hotel and Japanese restaurant is expected to open in late summer. Signage recently went up on the Nobu Hotel & Restaurant at Buckhead’s Phipps Plaza mall. The hotel will include 150 rooms, a rooftop pool, spa and conference space. The restaurant will occupy 10,000 square feet, featuring Japanese cuisine. Nobu is a brand founded by Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper. This is the first location in Atlanta. The hotel and restaurant are part of a larger redevelopment at Phipps Plaza. The former Belk department store was demolished to make way for a mixed-use project, which also includes a 13-story office building, food hall called Citizens, and a Life Time athletic club.
Buckhead shopping center to get facelift
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▲Lenox Marketplace, a shopping center across from Phipps Plaza mall in Buckhead, is set to get a facelift. The project would spruce up the façade of the shopping center. The multilevel mall at 3535 Peachtree Road, between Wieuca and Oak Valley roads, is anchored by Target, Publix, Dick’s Sporting Goods and LA Fitness. At a January meeting, the Buckhead Development Review Committee spoke favorably about the project. Atlanta-based Selig Enterprises and an Ohio teachers’ pension fund had ac-
quired Lenox Marketplace in 2021. Architecture firm ASD/SKY is leading the project design.
Massive furniture store planned for Dunwoody
▲A two-story, 110,000-square-foot furniture retail store is planned for Ravinia Parkway in Dunwoody. Living Spaces Furniture is planning its first metro Atlanta location at the site. The Dunwoody City Council heard a rezoning request for the project at a January meeting, raising issues about tree preservation on the property. Some council members also expressed concern over whether the furniture store would be a good fit for the city. Living Spaces Furniture represents famous TV personality designers such as Chip and Joanna Gaines from the show “Fixer Upper” and Jonathan and Drew Scott, known as “The Property Brothers.” “What do we do with 110,000-squarefoot shopping space that is owned by a company in California when the TV personalities get divorced, and their show goes away,” said Councilmember Stacey Harris. The rezoning request was deferred at the Jan. 24 City Council meeting.
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BY COLLIN KELLEY Where is it? Just across the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County and adjacent to Buckhead. It’s a 20-minute drive from Downtown. Cobb Energy Centre
What’s the history? The town was originally called Crossroads and then Paces, after ferry operator Hardy Pace who ran his boats back and forth across the Chattahoochee in the area. In the 1840s, the Atlantic and Western Railroad installed track to connect Atlanta to Chattanooga and one of its assistant engineers, William H. Vining, led the team lay-
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ing track and building a critical bridge. The depot was named Vining’s Station in his honor, and it stuck. What about leisure, shopping, and dining? Along with its prime location along the river for fishing, picnicking, and exploring, the popular Silver Comet Trail passSilver Comet Trail es Vinings for your hiking, walking, and biking pleasure. Busy Cumberland Mall is adjacent to Vinings and there’s also Vinings Jubilee, which has shops like Banana Republic, Talbots, Loft, and Fab’rik and plenty of restaurants to choose from like Another Broken Egg, Mellow Mushroom, Stockyard Burgers & Bones, and Café at Pharr. Big concerts and shows are regularly staged at Cobb Energy Centre. How much are homes? Anywhere from $250,000 for a condo or townhome to well over $3 million for a single-family home. @reporter_newspapers
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In-person camps gearing up for summer couraged to wear masks. History camp themes vary from the ancient world to the history of space, and writing camps range from basic writing skills to learning how to create fictional and fantastical stories. Campers are encouraged to bring their own writing devices, but it’s not required. Alliance Theatre’s camps once again will end with a final live performance that families can attend at the Woodruff Art Center. Satellite camps are also available throughout the city to reach more families. The age-specific camps range from 4-year-olds to high schoolers, with offerings from improv comedy to film to musical theatre, and themes inspired by artists ranging from Olivers Jeffers to Jimi Hendrix. The Alliance Theatre is monitoring safety guidelines. All staff and artists will be fully vaccinated. “All of our camps are designed to awaken the intrinsic creativity of the campers and instill in them not only a love of this art form but a life-long confidence in their abilities,” Alliance spokesperson Mashaun D. Simon said.
BY BOB PEPALIS Most summer camps in metro Atlanta will be in person in 2022 with health safety measures in place, including face masks and limits on the number of campers. As guidelines from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health may change between registration and the start of camps, parents and campers should check with camp organizers for updated health safety requirements. ▲The Atlanta History Center’s summer history and writing camps will be in person at the Buckhead campus. Each session will be limited to 15 campers, who are en-
▼The Spruill Center for the Arts will partner with Stage Door Theatre for the first time. “Since we share a home here, it just makes sense that we’re working together to give as many kids as possible the chance to learn skills in all the arts,” said Leontyne Robinson, summer camp director.
REGISTRATION NOW OPEN: WWW.WESLEYANSCHOOL.ORG/SUMMERCAMPS
26 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
ers get personal instruction, from idea pitch to final cut. Aurora Day Camp, which serves children with cancer and their siblings, will offer both in-person and virtual camp options this year. The summer camp program runs from June 6 to July 14 at The Davis Academy in Sandy Springs, according to its website. To minimize potential transmission of COVID-19, the camp will have smaller groups that are self-contained, with minimal interaction with others. There will be socially distant bus transportation. Masks are required of all campers and staff, and there will be daily screening of children, staff and visitors. The City of Brookhaven will again partner with the Ashford Dunwoody YMCA to host summer camps in city facilities. Students ages 3-16 can participate in the camp activities. Swim camps and sports camps – with gymnastics, cheerleading and sports-specific camps – are scheduled by age group. Traditional camps and specialty camps, such as hip hop dance, junior travel, and health and wellness, are on tap. Media camps include video instruction, photography, music and culinary opportunities. Those attending babysitting camp will become American Red Cross certified babysitters, while C.I.T. (Counselors in Training) will work in departments at the YMCA to The Spruill Center for the Arts Camps cover topics including a wide variety of arts, fashion, photography, ballet, acting, musical theatre and science. They will be held in the Dunwoody Cultural Arts building. Safety precautions include staff and campers wearing face masks. Campers will be asked about any symptoms before entering.
Marist School in Brookhaven
▲Camp Flix returns for in-person sessions of its filmmaking Summer Camp 2022 in Atlanta at Emory University and Oglethorpe University. The one-week, real-world experience immerses kids, ages 11-17, to the techniques, language, and processes of filmmaking and acting. The day camp and overnight camp for tweens and teens will be led by a group of industry professionals, many of whom have taught in film departments and worked for companies like WarnerMedia, Hulu, Adult Swim, Point Grey Pictures, and MTV. Camp@reporter_newspapers BK
develop skills that can apply to careers working with children and in customer service. ▲Marist School in Brookhaven has added science, advanced basketball skills and wrestling. Other offerings include sports camps (baseball, cheerleading, diving, football, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and volleyball); sports medicine camp; ceramics camp; music technology & production camp; fun camp; personal essay start-up; and SAT/ACT boot camp. The school will implement mitigation measures to cut the incidence and spread of COVID-19 on campus. Full-and half-day weekly camp sessions will be offered from June 6 to Aug. 5 for children ages 5 to 17. FEBRUARY 2022 | 27
A day in the life: Michael Tavani ny has its offices. There, you’ll find Tavani with headphones in, listening to playlists. For him, a lot of deep work is simply thinking. He keeps a list of companies that inspire him, such as Rapha, a London-based cycling clothing company. “I like to look at them and get inspired by them,” Tavani said. “What are they doing well? How can we apply that to Switchyards? … I think that seeds a lot of ideas.”
BY AMY WENK Growing up in Dunwoody, Michael Tavani would steal his dad’s video camera and film short skits to show his friends, reveling in their reactions. “It’s the same thrill I have here with this,” Tavani, 42, said while sipping a Punch Card Coffee at the Cabbagetown location of Switchyards. “I enjoy the creative process — creating something from an idea, putting it out into the world and seeing people’s reactions.” Tavani, now a Brookhaven resident, is founder and CEO of Switchyards, what he calls a “neighborhood work club.” It’s not a coworking venue, but a “third place” that fills a gap between the office and home. Switchyards takes a cue from the world’s great hotel lobbies, offering comfy work nooks, quiet areas for deep work, and unlimited coffee for its members. The concept has hit its stride during the pandemic, which has drastically changed the workplace. According to a September 2021 poll from Gallup, about 45% of all full-time U.S. employees were working remotely at least part of the time. “The world has changed a lot in terms of work — where we work, how we work,” Tavani said. “Our original thesis was spot on … People want an inspiring place outside of the home and outside of the office to work around other people.” Tavani has been a pioneer of Atlanta’s startup scene and was a co-founder of popular daily deals app Scoutmob. Six years ago, he opened the first location of Switchyards in downtown Atlanta, with locations following in Westside, Cabbagetown and Decatur. Now, Tavani is gearing up to open a fifth location in Buckhead. It’s set to open Feb. 22 at Piedmont Center, a sprawling office campus off Piedmont Road. He hopes to grow Switchyards to 10 locations in metro Atlanta. “My motivation every morning is to create something really special and pour all of my talents, energy, resources and bandwidth into Switchyards,” Tavani said. With so much on his plate, Reporter Newspapers wondered how the busy entrepreneur spends his time. Here’s a look at his typical day: Not a morning guy: A father of three kids, Tavani will wake up at 6:30 a.m. if he’s driving carpool that week. But other days, it’s closer to 8 a.m. “I’m normally not a morning guy,” he said. “One of my goals earlier in my life was to never set an alarm. I hate alarms.” First thing: Before he even looks at email, Tavani checks online to see the occupancy of Switchyards. The locations have a “people reader” on the door, he said. “It’s like my dashboard for how Switchyards is doing. You can tell at any moment in time how many people are in the locations.”
28 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
Quick lunch: “I don’t want to take an hour lunch,” Tavani said. So, he brings in a frozen lunch, often from Daily Harvest, for a quick meal at his desk. “I want to get right back into it.” Most-used app: Tavani’s go-to app is Notion, a note-taking and project management platform. “The challenge with starting a company, especially one you love, is I’m thinking about it 24/7,” he said. “Thoughts are fleeting, and there’s a lot on my mind.” He uses Notion to capture and categorize his ideas, so they are available when he needs them. “I’m constantly trying to be as an effective as I can.” Heading home: Tavani will head home around 7 p.m. even though he likes to work late. “Every single day, when I’m about to leave, I’m doing my best work,” he said. “But kids and family are calling at that point … As I’ve gotten older, I have definitely realized this is more of a marathon, than a sprint. The hustle is overrated. I value a clear mind.” Family time: In the evening, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Stephanie, and three kids: Jarrett (11), Hudson (8), and Gabriella (5). Lately, they’ve been playing foosball. He also likes to read the “Who was?” series of biographies to his kids. “I’m learning facts I never knew,” he said with a laugh. Relaxing: To wind down, Tavani will take walks and listen to podcasts, make calls or catch up on Voxer messages from his former Scoutmob co-founder, Dave Payne. “It’s also my alone time,” he said. Slow start: Next, he’ll pull up Pocket, a social bookmarking service, where he’s saved long-format articles. “I try to start off the morning slow by reading a few articles and getting in the right frame of mind … I try to read about adjacent industries. It’s unproductive to read about our industry as we’re trying to design a new category. I want to take adjacent industries and apply them to Switchyards.” Making the rounds: Tavani tries to visit each Switchyards location once a week. Lately, he’s been spending most of his days at the Decatur location, which opened in early January and features “The Library of Deep Work and Focus,” a heads-down workspace. When Buckhead opens Feb. 22,
he’ll pivot to get that location up and running. Deep focus time: “I try not to schedule meetings almost at all,” Tavani said. Instead, he prefers to prioritize deep focus time. “I’m a big believer in deep work.” That means two to four-hour blocks at the downtown Switchyards, where the compa-
Up late: “I’m totally a night guy,” said Tavani, who stays up until midnight or 1 a.m. “I’m always having to force myself to go to sleep.” He’ll often browse the website Newspapers.com, which features old newspaper clippings. “I’m a huge Atlanta history buff,” he said, adding he especially likes reading about businesses that failed, looking for lessons he can apply to Switchyards. Best tip for entrepreneurs: Strive for incremental progress, he said. “Just do one thing each day that’s meaningful … I try to do things where I can provide the most highvalue impact.” reporternewspapers.com BK
Reporter Newspapers has partnered with Hypepotamus, the go-to source of startup and technology news in the Southeast. hypepotamus.com
Buckhead-based startup redefines ‘carpooling’ for logistics industry BY MAIJA EHLINGER The term “carpool” may have once been reserved for commuting to school or soccer practice. But Buckhead-based entrepreneurs Michael Malakhov and Eric Morris are bringing a new “carpool” definition to the logistics industry with startup Carpool Logistics. The two bring a combined 25 years of logistics experience at behemoth C.H. Robinson. Now, Carpool Logistics is building a network of drivers to help ship cars across the country. Its technology platform and network of contracted drivers help optimize automotive shipping to cut down on time, cost, and overall emissions associated with shipping vehicles. “At Carpool, we pool cars. We have a shared economy business model that allows us to consolidate vehicles traveling to similar destinations,” said Malakhov. The Carpool platform streamlines the end-to-end process so customers can get a quote, provide shipment information, make a payment, and track a vehicle shipment all in one place. Customers include auction houses, dealerships, or individuals who need to ship a vehicle. The quote provided is based on vehicle size, market
size conditions, weather, and other geographic constraints. It’s an interesting time to be connecting auto shippers and carriers, Malakhov told Hypepotamus. The automotive industry is going through a renaissance and one of the shifts is towards digitization. Auto dealers are expanding into e-commerce as consumers are more comfortable purchasing cars online, car auctions are shifting to digital, and even auto manufacturers are starting to embrace the direct-to-consumer model. The vehicle logistics space has traditionally lagged behind the overall freight industry when it comes to innovation. Today’s consumers are used to speed, communication, and the ability to track products that are being delivered to their doorstep, yet shipping a $30K vehicle could take weeks, with no visibility and poor communication. The vehicle shipping industry is estimated to reach over $13 billion this year as consumers become more comfortable shopping for cars online, the logistics space looks to “green” up operations, and consumers continue to struggle with the used car crunch.
JAN 28–FEB 13 on the HERTZ STAGE
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Supply chain disruptions that the automotive industry has experienced due to the chip shortage have created a significant supply and demand imbalance. The shortage of new vehicle inventory drove up the demand and prices of the used vehicles which have made it cost-effective to buy a car remotely from another state and have it shipped, according to Malakhov. “Significant supply chain disruptions are driving innovation and there is a lot of interest to invest in logistics space now,” added Malakhov. “At Carpool, we’re bringing speed, shipment optimization, and tracking visibility that’s absolutely necessary for the future of vehicle logistics.” With a growing team run out of the Buckhead-based Atlanta Tech Village, Malakhov said Carpool is currently focused on building out its technology platform and ultimately raising funds in the middle of 2022.
Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition
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Reporter Newspapers has partnered with Saporta Report to provide local business news from one of Atlanta’s most respected journalists, Maria Saporta. saportareport.com
Psillakis leading Mercedes-Benz USA with global flair BY MARIA SAPORTA Few executives in Atlanta can rival the multi-cultural experiences that Dimitris Psillakis has enjoyed. It’s been a little more than a year since Psillakis became president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, which moved its headquarters to Sandy Springs in July 2015 from Montvale, N.J. Mercedes-Benz has become an integral part of Atlanta since moving its headquarters to Georgia. By acquiring the naming rights to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the company now has one of the biggest corporate signs in the region. Also, two of Psillakis’ predecessors — Steve Cannon and Dietmar Exler — left Mercedes-Benz to join Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s organization; Cannon as CEO of the AMB Group, and Exler as chief operating officer of AMB Sports + Entertainment. Needless to say, Mercedes-Benz has become part of the Atlanta region’s landscape — something Psillakis looks forward to continuing and strengthening. “It was a very easy decision to come to Atlanta,” Psillakis said during a recent interview at the company’s Sandy Springs
headquarters. “It’s a big job. The United States is our second biggest market.” Psillakis has been with Mercedes-Benz since 1992. Before coming to Atlanta, he was president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada. He served as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea from 2015 to 2020, expanding the market to the fifth largest in the world for Mercedes-Benz cars. Before Korea, Psillakis was with Mercedes-Benz do Brasil Ltda, where he served as managing director for passenger cars in South America and Vans Sales Brazil. In his six years in Brazil, his team tripled the sales volume to reach the highest market share in the country. Psillakis was born in Athens, Greece, where he spent 12 years in a French school. “I decided to go to England when I was 15 years old to go to a British university,” Psillakis said. “I learned English on the fly.” After getting degrees from the University of Kent at Canterbury and the Imperial College Business School at the University of London, Psillakis returned to Greece where he joined Mercedes-Benz. Interestingly enough, Psillakis acknowledged that one language he has not fully learned is German. However, that hasn’t seemed to be a hindrance in his ca-
Dimitris Psillakis, CEO of MercedesBenz USA. (Special/Maria Saporta) reer with Daimler AG, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany. Now Psillakis is focused on Atlanta. “Our footprint in Atlanta has become much stronger and much bigger,” said Psillakis, adding that getting the naming rights to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium five years ago helped “convey the message and helped us to enhance our presence in the market with our products. Of the more than 1,600 people who work for Mercedes-Benz USA, between
800 and 900 are based out of the Sandy Springs headquarters. “For me, my priority is to rebuild our culture,” Psillakis said. “We’ve had a lot of changes. I want to bring stability to the team. I want to be sure the company has a north star and a strategy of how to get there.” Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has meant that most of Psillakis’ meetings with his colleagues in the past year have been virtual rather than in person. “That’s a disadvantage,” said Psillakis, who said the challenge is to continue innovating a brand that is 135 years old. The company is focused on bringing in young talent and better aligning existing talent with their skills. He expects that his tenure in Atlanta will be between three to five years. Meanwhile, he and his wife, Maura, are enjoying being in Atlanta. They live in the LaVista Park neighborhood in Brookhaven. “For me, it’s impressive to have so much greenery,” Psillakis said. “You don’t have the feeling of living in a city. Atlanta has nice neighborhoods and restaurants. It’s a good life.”
Breaking ground in 2022 Exciting new trail and infrastructure projects in partnership with the City of Sandy Springs!
in planned infrastructure improvements for 2021
miles of trails in design or under construction
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sq ft of new development in the last 5 years
people within a 30 minute drive
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For 22 years, the Perimeter Community Improvement District has invested in access, mobility, and quality of life to create a signature destination for corporate headquarters, hospitality, and retail. Here’s a snapshot of our progress in 2021.
Learn more about how we improve quality of life in Central Perimeter: perimetercid.org INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS. It’s what we do. 30 FEBRUARY 2022 | REPORTER NEWSPAPERS
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CONGRATULATIONS 2021 TOP AGENTS TOP TEAMS
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©2022 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently operated subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, and a franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC.Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of Columbia Insurance Company, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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