Thursday, October 3, 2019

[CLOSURE ALERT] Sugarfina and ATL Taco Have Shuttered at Lenox Square

Lenox Square luxury candy retailer Sugarfina and local taco joint ATL Taco have both closed in Buckhead.  Sources tell ToNeTo Atlanta that both closures happened within the past week and that there was little to no advance warning.  Sugarfina opened its micro store - essentially a giant cubicle - on the mall's first level outside Macy's in late 2015.  ATL Taco, located across from Cousins Maine Lobster in a short wing closest to the Neiman-Marcus surface parking lot, opened in late January 2018.  The restaurant, like the eatery it replaced, Bantam + Biddy, were both operated by Chefs Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere.  
While some might deduce that the pair of closures is a result of a poor performing mall or the much talked about notion that "malls are dying," a little digging tells a different story.

Sugarfina, which Rosie O'Neill and Josh Resnick started in Los Angeles in 2012 and eventually grew via company owned stores, licensing and partnerships to be a multi-million dollar brand, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early last month.  The company once operated 44 candy boutiques, including 11 shop-in-shops in Nordstrom stores.  A shop-in-shop which opened in the Nordstrom at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody in 2016 has closed, as have more than a dozen others.  

The company billed itself as a “candy store for grownups,” offering confections inspired by adult beverages like their popular Peach Bellini Gummies and Champagne Bears.  Many of their candies were offered in their trademarked Candy Cubes - Sugarfina won a lawsuit against rival Sweet Pete's for knocking them off - which made them especially aesthetically pleasing and easily merchandised.   

Last year, Sugarfina generated $47 million in net sales, with $23.6 million coming from retail operations and almost $12 million coming from wholesale.  The wholesale business, which counted Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Four Seasons Hotels and Reese Witherspoon's Draper James, among others, as clients, contributed significantly to the bottom line, but also diluted the brand to the point where the corporate stores seemed superfluous, especially in markets like Atlanta.    

As of their filing, Sugarfina reported $26.65 million in debt, with the largest share — nearly $11 million — owed to investor Goldman Sachs.  The company's chief restructuring officer Lance Miller noted in the filing that Sugarfina’s revenues doubled year over year between 2012 and 2015, but they began to fall in 2016. The company reported $4.8 million in losses in 2016, followed by $7.3 million in 2017 and $17.9 million in 2018.

When Sugarfina opened at Lenox, it replaced a Great American Cookie Co. franchise.  A separate franchisee later opened a new Great American on the mall's second floor.  For now, the former Sugarfina is occupied by a less than exciting temporary retailer peddling off-brand handbags.  The store is likely a temporary replacement for what is likely a prized location.    

When Bantam + Biddy closed in December 2017, it was simultaneously announced that ATL Taco would replace it.  The taco joint, like its predecessor, never seemed to catch on and its closure had been predicted by numerous  ToNeTo Atlanta readers.  ATL Taco is, after all, not the first time that the duo of Doty and Gummere replaced an underperforming Bantam + Biddy with a different concept.  The business partners flipped their Bantam + Biddy at Avalon in Alpharetta to King Barbecue in June 2018 before closing it in December 2018.  The restaurant earlier this year resurfaced within the Pharr Road location of Savi Provisions.  

ATL Taco, which last posted to its official facebook page September 7, 2018, made no mention of the closure, but did update the page to reflect the restaurant is "permanently closed."   The restaurant's space has reportedly already been cleared out, but there is no word yet on what may replace it. 

As for Doty and Gummere, the duo still operate the original Bantam + Biddy at Ansley Mall in Midtown, as well as another in Chattanooga.  Plans call for an outpost in the main atrium of Concourse C at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport to open next week, and another in Amelia Island, Florida to open later in the month.  The chefs also plan to convert their Chick-a-Biddy at Atlantic Station to Bantam + Biddy in 2020.  The Federal, located on Crescent Avenue at 1010 Midtown, also first opened as Bantam + Biddy, but has found an audience in the tricky Midtown market and remains open.  

Do either of the recent Lenox Square closures surprise you?  Did you ever buy candy from Sugarfina or tacos from ATL Taco?  What would you like to see replace Sugarfina and ATL Taco?   

Please share your thoughts below.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The wing of the mall that ATL Taco was in doesn't seem conducive to restaurant uses. Would be curious to see how the lobster place is doing as well.

Wasn't this where the Delta ticket counter was years ago?

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