Decatur tidbits: Casa Balam will replace Ted’s Montana Grill, Starbucks space update and moreCasa Balam is expected to open in the Ted's Montana Grill space this August. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Decatur, GA — Downtown Decatur buzzed with activity on Wednesday morning, May 3.
A quick walk around downtown revealed new businesses are coming to Decatur, promising to fill long-vacant spaces, though some ideas are further along than others.
A reporter spotted construction crews gutting what was once a Ted’s Montana Grill on West Ponce de Leon Avenue, across from the CVS drug store. From the street, the inside looks stripped down to the nails. A sign on the window said, “Casa Balam” and added, “We Can’t Wait to Serve You, Decatur.” Ted’s closed in 2020.
A construction crew member passed along a phone number for the contractor, who put a reporter in touch with one of the owners, Jay Patel, who says Casa Balam is co-owned by chef Luis Damian. Patel is also involved with the Habitat restaurant in Buckhead and El Valle in Midtown.
Casa Balam will serve Mexican and Latin fare in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Damian is “very passionate about food,” Patel said.
Patel is from New Jersey and lived with his sister in Decatur, not far from Ted’s when he first moved to Atlanta. The community grew on him, he said.
“I loved it,” Patel said. “It’s such a family-oriented town. It was a great vibe and ambiance. [I thought] it would be cool to do something here.”
He hopes that ambiance will become a part of his new Decatur restaurant.
Patel said the decor of Ted’s had to go.
“We wanted to change the entire design so when you walk in, you take the first bite, you feel you’re not in America, you’re somewhere in Mexico having a meal and a cocktail,” Patel said.
He said the restaurant will cater to families and have a kid’s menu. He said that costs will be more akin to what someone would find in a “regular family restaurant,” as opposed to fine dining.
“It’s not going to be super expensive,” Patel said.
He hopes the restaurant will open in the first week of August.
The downtown Decatur Starbucks was a COVID-19 casualty, shutting its doors for good in 2021 as the company shifted its focus to drive-through restaurants.
Decatur Business Development Manager Shirley Baylis recently told Decaturish that the owners were “eager to put something there,” but she did not know more than that.
“Once we hear word on who will be going in that space, we will let people know, but of course, they will probably put out signage, and we find out together,” Baylis said.
But shortly after the interview with Baylis, an employee of real estate firm CBRE said a lease with a new coffee shop had been signed for the space. CBRE representative Haley Lyons told Decaturish, “We actually just signed a lease with a new coffee shop last week.”
Lyons said she would provide more details about the coffee shop when she gets the OK from the tenant.
Other developments in downtown Decatur are promising, if a bit mysterious.
The Java Monkey Coffee shop burned down in 2018, and now it appears that a new coffee shop will take its place. A sign on the property’s fence says, “The Reading Room” is coming soon.
The website says it is opening in the summer of 2023 but offers few details about the business. The website says, “Created with heart by two women who love their Decatur community as much as they do coffee and wine, The Reading Room is a space that welcomes everyone.”
Social media links on the website weren’t working. The property owner did not immediately return a message seeking additional information about the Reading Room. Stay tuned.
Readers have wondered about the status of Chando’s Tacos at 254 W Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030, and they might be wondering a bit longer. Chando’s has been operating as a food truck off and on for months, and while the building has signage, the Decatur location doesn’t appear on the Chando’s Tacos website.
Baylis, with the city of Decatur, said the restaurant is currently hiring.
“They have a [certificate of occupancy] and business license,” Baylis said. “The sign in the window says they are looking to hire.”
And lastly, there’s Kroger, dear sweet Baby Kroger. The Baby Kroger on Commerce Drive closed its doors on Dec. 2, 2022, and the news also surprised the property’s owner, Stein Investment Group.
Decatur officials wanted to attract a new grocer to the space, but those plans apparently fell through. When Decaturish asked Baylis if the city made any headway in finding a new grocer, she said, “No, we did not.”
“The property owner has stated they want to backfill the space with another grocer,” Baylis said.
Jason Linscott, a principal with Stein Investment, said he did not have any updates about the Baby Kroger space.
With Baby Kroger gone, the city of Decatur and the Decatur Downtown Development Authority launched a new shuttle service to provide residents with transportation to various locations like Publix, CVS, the YMCA, and Legacy Park.
The free shuttle service will run through November, but the city is working on a permanent shuttle service for residents.
Like Starbucks and Ted’s, the Baby Kroger building could end up being another case of an empty building blotting the Decatur business district for months. When Kroger left, it had two years left on its lease.
Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story.
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