Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rize Artisan Pizza Will Soon Disappear From Sandy Springs Too

Edward "Eddie" Russell, previously "Director Culinary Operations Rize Holdings, LLC," is reportedly now the owner of Rize Pizza Sandy Springs, which will soon be renamed, according to a post on his personal Instagram page earlier this week. As Russell says in his post, he joined the Rize team a little over a year ago, and things have not exactly gone as he, or anyone else for that matter, expected.
ToNeTo Atlanta was first to report the closure of the Rize location in Poncey-Highland this past Friday.  TNT-A can now confirm that a previously planned location in Dunwoody has been officially abandoned. Russell acknowledges that he, who lives next door to the former North Highland location, "wouldn't have gone there if I didn't work there either.” Russell added, "luckily most people seemed to love the food at Rize, they just hated the store and the confusing experience, and for good reason." I could not agree more with his assessment and hope he is able to pull off  the re-branding that will hopefully streamline the operation and create a more inviting, "non-chain-like" atmosphere. 

I do wonder though, with Russell acknowledging the fact that he could not fix two restaurants at the same time, why he chose to "save" Sandy Springs, versus Poncey Highland. (Both restaurants were reportedly losing money.)  An Atlanta native and veteran of Concentrics Restaurants as well as Argosy in East Atlanta Village and Last Word in Old Fourth Ward, Russell's skills and reputation would seem to be better suited to saving the ITP eatery rather than the OTP eatery. 

Adding to the uphill battle, Russell and Peter deWeerdt, "Digital Technology & Consumer Analytic" are now reportedly the only two executives left at the restaurant.  Ryan Coppola, "Vice President of Operations at Rize Holdings, LLC," was let go within the past few days, as was the restaurant's general manager.  

While Russell has an extensive food background, deWeerdt's most recent experience prior to Rize was as "Director Digital Strategy - Connected Health Initiative at CVS Health."  Prior to CVS, deWeerdt held executive positions at a technology software company, Payless ShoeSource and The Boston Consulting Group.  

Adding to the issues, sources say many of the restaurant's hourly employees have left or are leaving, fearing that the restaurant will not be able to pay them and may not make it very long under the new ownership.  

Eddie Russell's complete Instagram post can be read below.


"I took a corporate job a little over a year ago. I'd reached a point in my career where I didn't care anymore about what people thought about me, or what I should be doing. I have an amazing daughter and I was tired of being exhausted and a zombie on my once a weeknight and every other weekend. You don't get those moments back and I chose not to miss them. It didn’t exactly work out that well. It came at a cost, emotionally, mentally and professionally. I didn't get to see as many of those nights and weekends as I thought. I've spent the past year being told "No" and "We know what we're doing" and I was over it. I was expected to always be working, yet was never allowed to change the menu or anything really that used my skills and experience. I pushed away friends and family over this job. My reputation was impacted, I had no clear idea what my job even was and I was miserable.

Things have a way of working out in ways you didn't expect and now I'm a restaurant owner. That's a new one for me. Rize will soon be no more, but we're not going out of business. I closed the store on Highland for a few reasons, but mostly because I can't fix 2 restaurants at the same time. And I live next door to the North Highland Rize. I can sum it up with "I wouldn't have gone there if I didn't work there either.” So I now have a soon to be renamed pizza shop in Sandy Springs. And, luckily most people seemed to love the food at Rize, they just hated the store and the confusing experience, and for good reason. Now I have the opportunity to get back to doing what I love. Making killer food and sharing it with people. There's no other message here, no corporate brand words or motto. Just me, some pizza, some good booze and some great people helping. Stay tuned, it's going to be a lot of work. Give me a few weeks to right the ship and figure it all out, but I'd love to have you in for a pint, great food and to say hi."

Are you surprised that both Rize locations will soon be closed? What can be changed about the Sandy Springs Rize restaurant to make it a success?  What  should open in the former Rize in Poncey-Highland?

Please share your thoughts below. 


Anonymous said...

When Rize opened in Sandy Springs, we were excited, hated the location but loved the pizza. Sadly our joy was short-lived. Twice, when picking up "to go" orders, we came home to find the pepperoni and sausage scantly scattered on our pizzas. Hardly any toppings at all. We felt ripped off. We called to complain and were offered nothing. The last time we dined in, about two months ago, our pizzas were delivered with burned (black char) crusts. We showed our food to the manager on duty and she said that these pizzas should never have left the kitchen. New pizzas were made and presented but this made for a very long dinner. I hope that there will be renewed attention to quality. If not, then the newly named pizza place will fail as well.

Anonymous said...

I REALLY did not like the order process when first entering. I love the vibe of the place but really wanted to sir with friends or a glass of wine and look at the menu.

jeff a. taylor said...

Never been, but the concept never made any sense to me, not with Hearth down the street, not with a virtual demand that you VALET PARK for pizza. Ultimately the town of Sandy Spring is gonna have to answer for trying force-feed higher density in the corridor. I just don't see enough foot traffic now or in the near term to support the ground-level retail of these midrises, certainly not beyond the odd dry cleaner or such. You know the town hates that the property is bracketed by a Burger King and a McDonald's, but maybe that points a way ahead. Ditch the pizza and go with higher-end sammiches, hoagies, heroes, etc. Still a long-shot for success, however.

Unknown said...

He probably couldn't wiggle out of the Sandy Springs contract and has no choice but to make it work.

Anonymous said...

Russell, thanks for sharing your story. So true on many levels. Your restaurant now has a human touch. You should place the story in a frame where guests can read it as they enter

Hands on management in a restaurant is crucial. The food at
Rize is great. The parking is terrible. Also when you walk in from the parking lot and then enter the patio at the first opportunity, you pass 3 doors before you can enter. Both issues need to be fixed.

Perhaps you want to hire staff from the Culinary School of Atlanta

Anonymous said...

Choosing Sandy Springs was a lease issue, to my understanding.
Revamped menu and full service dining is soo much better. You can tell Eddie has impacted the food since taking over. But, I'm one of few who can walk there. Parking and entrance is still an issue.

saneman said...

Excuse me, this guy is in denial if he thinks merely improving customer service will help. Parking is awful. But the food is quite simply mediocre. Why would I want to eat here when Pizza Crosta is not that far from this place and offers better pizzas?

Henry poer said...

Your information is terribly incorrect and factually wrong. Please feel free to contact me to correct your numerous mistakes

Henry poer

Anonymous said...

The CEO and VP Operations that devised this screwed up concept need to be investigated as scam artists. I feel bad for Eddie that he was lured into this debacle. I think these con artists really thought that if they acted like restauranteurs and got the funding to get the first couple stores open they could continue to con people into supporting them. My guess is that the gig is up for them in the Atlanta market and they will take their scam to another city and unfortunately find some other private equity company to back their next B.S. concept. Beware!

Anonymous said...

Eddie is not the "Hero" here. He is a part of what the problem is. He picked EVERYTHING in the original concept, just ask him. This relaunch will fail within 6 months or less.

Doug Powell said...

Best of luck Eddie! You were the one I had most confidence in. You can do this.

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