It’s late November in Atlanta, and the days are chilly, windy and raw. But when you step into Local Green Atlanta’s new location, near the corner of Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, there’s a warmth that soothes the weary traveler.
Familiar 70s and 80s R&B music flows through the small space, and a beam of afternoon sunlight stretches across the bottom of large block letters spelling out “Eat Well, Be Well.”
While the official grand opening is still weeks away, a few customers trickle in and out — some familiar faces, plus a few new ones who’ve stopped by at the recommendation of staff. During this soft-opening phase, Local Green Atlanta is working out the expected kinks that come with being a new restaurant, however, each dish is served with a smile, strong attention to detail, and an earnest query about the customer’s dining experience.
The calm den of activity belies the rush of activity that the business has experienced over the past several months. It’s been a speedy turn of events that saw the new Vine City eatery evolve from a small kitchen at Good Samaritan Health Center to a ubiquitous food truck to a storefront just yards away from the Ashby MARTA transit station.
Local Green Atlanta founder and Atlanta native Zachary Wallace (pictured below – center) started Local Green Atlanta in the fall of 2017 as an initiative for amplifying efforts that make healthy eating become a lifestyle in urban communities. This undertaking came after a storied career as an artist and producer in Atlanta’s music scene, having a hand in hit records from major artists like Ciara, Keri Hilson and others.
“I’m very happy with finally getting to this point,” says the first-time restauranteur as he reflects on the growth. “First of all it’s (close to) winter, and you really don’t want to be on a food truck if you have an option not to, and to be able to have a home and doors and heat—most of all—for customers to be able to get our food,” he says with a chuckle.
The new neighborhood spot attracts curious passersby who pause slightly to peek in and wonder what’s happening inside.
The first thing customers will notice when stepping into the new space is the Instagram-worthy green ivy wall with the company’s logo. The next is the menu, which features familiar items like the “3 Stack” cauliflower tacos and the “Bad & Bougie” tuna wrap that pay homage to Atlanta’s influential hip-hop culture.
Local Green Atlanta features fast-casual pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan items that allow customers to either “grab and go” or “sit and stay”—in either case making it easier for the nearby community to have healthier options when making food choices.
And while new opportunities like this are cause for justified celebration, there are often some difficult business decisions that happen along the way, including Local Green Atlanta having to close its operation at the Good Samaritan Health Center on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.
“It’s been kind of bittersweet. You have to let go of one to receive the other,” Wallace says somewhat wistfully.
“I never saw myself being in a space where I could not still have a representative at Good Sam or us having our representation there because of what we had built there,” he continues. “But once we got our home, the demand for us with the food truck, as well as the time and effort that it took to invest in this location and getting it open with the aesthetics that we wanted and the vision that we had to bring it to life, that made it almost impossible.”
Despite leaving Good Sam, it was important for Wallace to remain on the Westside, and the silver lining for both Local Green Atlanta and the community is that the new storefront location is less than two miles from that first home and provides easier access for pedestrians in the surrounding area—plus a private parking lot.
All of this expanded capacity also means expanded opportunities to do more for others.
For example, Wallace is employing students from Washington High School to help give them early access to a healthier environment—nutritionally and otherwise.
“If we are to ever really impact the community we have to be available for the community,” he says about working to make the full Local Green Atlanta vision into a reality.”
When asked about what it means to create relationships in a neighborhood with such an important legacy, Wallace professes, “I love that I get to be part of that. I get to be part of that connection. And to know that the people that paved the way are embracing it as such.”
“It’s crazy—the community support—the way the community is coming together and coming here and finding that it’s a place that they want to all come frequent and come back into the community, and not take their dollars [elsewhere],” he continues. “It’s great to be part of that movement. That’s the most rewarding part for me.”
Source: West Side Future Fund