S&S Cafeteria to close popular Embry Village location
S&S Cafeteria, an Embry Village mainstay since 1973, has announced it will close after dinner service on Sunday, July 10th. The restaurant is not closing due to lack of business, on the contrary, the restaurant is doing quite well. Sadly the restaurant has fallen victim to the expansion plans of neighboring Kroger. S&S had most recently been on a month-to-month lease with their most recent lease due to expire today, June 30th.
Kroger plans to build what is calls a "Kroger Marketplace" store in place of its current store as well as the S&S and adjacent recently shuttered motel. The new Marketplace store, larger than even the recently enlarged Decatur and Brookhaven stores and even the gargantuan Glenwood Marketplace store that opened yesterday in Grant Park, will measure about 114,000 square feet. The store will include such additional departments as "baby world," apparel, a Fred Meyer jewelry store, Starbucks, The Little Clinic, and expanded selections of existing departments, among other things. The store is also slated to include a Kroger fuel center.
|Typical look of a Kroger Marketplace|
Many area residents were split on their opinions of the redevelopment. Some pointed out the fact that the S&S recently failed a heath inspection. (Ask any individual with industry experience and they will tell you how flawed the system is ) Others lamented the potential loss of what has become a favorite place for after church meals. One thing is for sure, there is definitely still a market for the freshly prepared food and genuine hospitality served at the S&S. While I had lived nearby and worked at nearby Regal Cinemas Hollywood 24 for a couple years, only recently did a longtime ToNeTo Atanta reader introduce me to the restaurant. In turn, I re-introduced the restaurant to a former co-worker of mine who had not visited the S&S in over 40 years who is now so enamored with the freshness and service that he had made an effort to return as many as four days a week. (It's worth noting that my friend lives less than a half mile from the Piccadilly Cafeteria on Howell Mill Road but drives nearly 13 miles to dine at the S&S.)
|Diners making selections from the day's meal options|
My friend is not alone in his dedication and preference for the S&S as it's not uncommon for patrons to drive 20+ miles to dine at the cafeteria. Some patrons enjoy as many as 13 meals a week at the S&S!
If you have never been to the S&S before I definitely recommend you make an effort to have at least one meal there before it closes.
Metro Atlanta's only other S&S is located in Campbellton Plaza on Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta (about 22 miles from the Embry Village restaurant). S&S also operates a cafeteria in Augusta and two in Macon. In addition, there are also locations in Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina and Knoxville, Tennessee.
While the S&S is closing and there are reportedly no plans to reopen it elsewhere nearby, I have heard talk of longtime patrons opening a very similar establishment in an effort to recreate the S&S. A lease has not been executed on the new space yet but is expected to be finalized in the coming days at which point the entrepreneurs have promised me that ToNeTo Atlanta readers will be the first to know. While the new enterprise will be unable to use the S&S name, the name I've heard will be used should resonate with locals.
I spoke to J.A. Smith IV, President of Cafeteria Operations for Macon based Smith and Sons Foods, the Cafeteria's parent company in February. Mr. Smith lamented that "we don't have the money to take on Kroger." Smith was complimentary of the Embry Hills community that has supported his family's restaurant since 1973. "We have lots of loyal customers and we love every one of them."
While Mr. Smith's busy work schedule prevented me from reaching him again more recently, earlier assertions that the S&S would remain in place until late 2016 / early 2017 proved untrue. "We are gonna ride it to the last minute...'till they have a bulldozer at our door," Smith said then of the closure timeline. While a few spaces within Embry Village were reportedly offered to Smith as relocation options, they all came at significantly higher rents and in far smaller spaces than would be needed to operate the current cafeteria model. The current S&S is 9,325 square feet.
|The preliminary site plan for the redevelopment|
This past Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting voted on an important change that paves the way for the Kroger development. The commission unanimously (6-0-0) voted to "permit fuel pumps at large-scale retailers within 1,000 feet of an interstate highway interchange without the need for a Special Land Use Permit." By the same margin, commissioners approved a rezoning request to allow redevelopment of the Embry Hills Kroger, which benefits from the SLUP change.
Last week I received this response from Glynn Jenkins, Public Relations Director for Kroger’s Atlanta Division as it relates to whether they would proceed without the fuel center (as I'd heard they would) and to the timeline for the new store. (READ, this response was given prior to the commissions approval this week)
"The fuel center is a critical component of the Embry Village expansion. Kroger actively seeks opportunities to provide shoppers with convenient locations and amenities to create a great shopping experience. Kroger fuel centers are a great way to deliver additional value to our customers, and we would like to provide this added value to the residents in this area. If Kroger has all necessary permits this summer, construction would commence later this fall."
|Kroger officials review the site plans for the new store|
Given this week's vote, it would seem reasonable for the company to begin work later this fall. Sources indicate that if this timeline proves accurate, the new store should open in late 2017 or early 2018.
Will you miss the S&S? If you are an S&S fan, what do you like most about it? Does the idea of a one stop shop Kroger Marketplace excite you?
Please share your thoughts below.