Stone Soup Kitchen, which opened in Grant Park in 2005, will be closing on Aug. 23, according to owner Sarah Rick. The date is significant because it marks 38 years to the day that Stone Soup was incorporated as a grocery co-op in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood.
Rick had been hoping to retire and apparently had “takers” who wanted to buy the business. But, recently, after the building was sold, that became more difficult.
“Things are so good at SSK right now,” Rick said in an email. “Our menu says ‘We Got This!’ And I’m going to say that at long last, that’s actually true. It’s a sad way to go out. The staff and customers have become family. One customer, very disappointed to hear the news today, said: ‘When I come in here, I feel like I’m coming home.’ We’re all still working hard on finding a way for Stone Soup to have a future.”
Here are more details from a press release, which includes a bit of Stone Soup history and what’s behind the closing.
On June 30, 2016, Stone Soup Kitchen received a “you have 60 days” eviction notice from Paces Properties. Earlier this year, Paces bought the Woodward Avenue building (the addresses of 580-588 Woodward Ave.) that includes the restaurant and a few other business tenants.
“It was a little bit like getting divorce papers in the mail when you didn’t even see a divorce coming,” said Sarah Rick, owner of Stone Soup Kitchen.
After purchasing the Woodward Ave. building, Paces sought to raise the rent on the café enough to make it “completely unaffordable,” Rick said. “We’d have to totally rework our concept, not to mention the necessary leasehold improvements, that we would also need to pay for.”
“As a tenant here, things have been iffy for about two years,” Rick added. “It’s a sad way to go out. Our 17 employees have taken the news well. I’m glad they at least have a little time to explore new opportunities.”
Rick and her staff have been “overwhelmed” by longtime customers expressing sorrow and even outrage that the friendly neighborhood café must vacate the premises. Many have commented that it was Stone Soup that helped elevate the area to a much more pleasant and safe destination.
Is there a possibility that the restaurant can move to another location?
“We continue to do everything we can to secure a future for Stone Soup Kitchen,” added Rick.
To prepare for her forthcoming retirement, Rick had already spent the last two years in discussions and negotiations with prospective buyers. Very recently, she had a formal buy-sell agreement with another restaurant group that would likely have continued the restaurant at its location, even keeping the name Stone Soup Kitchen. But that deal was also contingent upon them securing an affordable lease from Paces Properties. That was not to be.
While Stone Soup Kitchen opened in August 2005, its roots in Atlanta go back several decades. Rick, an Emory graduate, was co-owner of the independent health-conscious grocery store, also named Stone Soup, that operated from 1978-1994 in Virginia-Highland.
584 Woodward Ave. S.E., Atlanta. 404-524-1222.