In an era of robot-assisted 1-hour delivery of just about anything you want, it’s important to stop and reflect on the personal impact and legacy that Buckheads longest running business have had on the community. We asked each owner of some of Buckhead’s oldest businesses the same question, “what’s your secret to success and longevity in one of Atlanta’s most beloved neighborhoods?” Here are their stories:
Wender & Roberts – 98 years old
This beloved neighborhood drug store proves that sometimes the best path to success means not changing a thing. So says owner Loren Pierce of Wender & Roberts, which was founded in 1918 by William Max Wender and Marvin Roberts as a family-oriented pharmacy. “We simply inherited the values passed on to us from the Wender family for the past 98 years,” says current owner Loren Pierce. “We strive everyday to understand the needs of our customers and make sure they know we simply couldn’t exist without them.”
For Pierce, it’s these loyal customers who truly make Wender & Roberts stand out in the community. “When you have a community that understands the value of small business and personal relationships, then the resulting fabric that has been woven is a beautiful thing,” he says. “It makes us proud to be part of that spirit.”
Henri’s Bakery & Café – 87 years old
Founded in 1929 by Frenchman Henri Fiscus, who added a Southern flair to iconic European baked goods and sandwiches, Henri’s Bakery & Café quickly became a Buckhead staple for delicious cold-cut sandwiches, desserts, and other treats. More than 87 years later, Henri’s Bakery remains a beloved neighborhood spot, now run by two of Fiscus’ granddaughters, who attribute their enduring success to a holistic approach to business.
“You have to have a heart for the business, from your customers to your employees,” says Madeline Leonard, who took over Henri’s in 1974. “It’s all encompassing—you have to have care for both those parts, which are equally important.”
Buckhead Theatre – 86 years old
Since 1930, the Buckhead Theatre opened as the local movie house, movies cost 10 cents at the time. Through the decades it had many incarnations and names while hosting some of the most legendary names in American and international music.
It’s a mix of nostalgia and philanthropy that has not only kept the theater open, but given it new life. In 2008, local businessman Charlie Loudermilk, purchased the theater where he used to watch 10-cent moves nearly 70 years earlier. After a state of the art $6 million renovation, the Buckhead Theater is better than ever.
Joe May Valet Cleaners – 80 years old
The Peachtree Battle Shopping Center’s launderer has been in service for over 80 years. Family-owned and operated since 1936, Joe May Valet Cleaners is a Buckhead institution. Current owner John Strickland has been a part of the business since he was 16 years old, taking over in 1981. For Strickland, the secret to lasting success in the neighborhood is a good old-fashioned work ethic. “It’s working 80 hours a week, 7 days a week,” he says. “It’s a lot of hours and a lot of days, but we’re really fortunate to have good people. This business is so labor intensive that you really need good people underneath the management to be successful.” The late founder, Joe May, was Mayor Massell’s first cousin!
Buckhead Wright’s Florist – 70 years old
This family-owned neighborhood florist set up shop in 1946 and has been providing locals custom flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations ever since. “The reason we’ve been so successful is because we pride ourselves on friendly, quality service,” says owner and florist Sherry Moon. Moon, who has owned the shop for the last 12 years and served as manager in the decade prior, says Buckhead Wright’s Florist has customers who are almost like kin. “We’ve been with them from their weddings, to births, to deaths. They’re truly like loyal family.”
White House Restaurant – 68 years old
A slice of the Old South, flavored with a touch of Greek cuisine, still exists along Buckhead’s city streets. Since 1948, the White House Restaurant has been a witness to the changing landscape and demographics of Atlanta, but remains largely unchanged. Today, business people enjoy “Power Breakfasts” at this Zagat-rated restaurant.
Owned by Demos Galaktiadis and Vana Dragoumaniotis, the White House Restaurant owes its success to “it’s personality, humility and friendliness.” Dragoumaniotis is especially pleased that the diner creates an “atmosphere (that) feels like home.”
Richards Variety Store – 66 years old
Nestled in the Peachtree Battle shopping center, Richards Variety Store boasts sixty plus years of operation. Selected Atlanta’s Best Toy Store for over 20 consecutive years by Atlanta Magazine, Richards features something for everyone. From cute puppets to entertaining greeting cards, Richards has it all.
Robert Klenberg attributes the store’s longevity to his “will to survive.” He calls himself “an excellent buyer” and was trained by his father, Max. Richards has seen many face lifts through the years, but “no matter how many times it changes, its fundamental essence stays the same.”
Tommy’s Barber Shop – 55 years old
Officially called Thomas Barber Shop, this beloved Buckhead staple is more commonly known as Tommy’s Barber Shop to locals. Owner Tommy Thomas, whose father Gilmer originally opened shop in 1959 in the West Paces Ferry Shopping Center, has been working there since 1970. His recipe for lasting success and customer loyalty? Dedication, through and through. “I get here early, stay late, and make everyone my family,” Thomas says.
“That’s the only way to say it—it ain’t about the money, it’s all about the friendship with customers.”
Tommy has buzzed and trimmed the heads of Buckhead’s elite from athletes, politicians and businessmen to 2012 Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney.
The Swan Coach House – 51 years old
The Swan Coach House was originally a carriage house to the Atlanta History Center‘s Swan House Mansion. It was converted and opened in 1956 and has since been delighting Buckhead families with bridal luncheons, high teas and stunning weddings.
Betsy West, Chairman of the Forward Arts Foundation, attributes the longevity to being “a classic that doesn’t age. Offering the quintessential southern dining experience.”
Know any other entities able to boast fifty or more years of service in Buckhead? Leave your comments below!