Brick Store Pub co-founder Dave Blanchard came to Decatur more than 15 years ago. After working at another brewery, he helped oversee a small-but-packed Irish bar near Decatur Square during the 1996 Olympic games. At the time, Blanchard became fixated on the building next door — a women's hair salon. It would soon become the beloved gastropub that it is today and would help pioneer downtown Decatur's revitalization in the years to come. As he's seen Decatur come into its own, he wonders why Avondale Estates, where he and his family reside, can't keep up.
Decatur and Avondale were pretty much as bad as they could be 15 years ago. And talk about [the difference now] ... You got to remember, Decatur [had] nothing in every single storefront.
There was just no one in Decatur. It was really easy to see how cool of a place it would be ... Eddie's Attic was here. Trackside was here. Twain's had opened the year before. ... None of the condos on Ponce [de Leon Avenue] and Church Street were built. I can't even remember what was there before. I want to compare it to sitting around and watching your hair grow — it's been slow [for] such a long time.
The best thing the city did was come in [with a plan] to revitalize Decatur. They started before anybody even came in by redoing all the sidewalks, the streetscape, the streetlights, the lamps, and the trees ... it really makes a difference.
When we opened here, you went to the Brick Store [or] you went home. ... People aren't gonna settle for anything that's not a little bit better, you know? The bar's been raised high and there's enough people now that it makes a difference to just about everybody.
I think the combination of Cakes & Ale moving [into Decatur Square] and No. 246 opening next door ... they were exactly the kind of additions to Decatur that we were always wanting. [And] what we've always wanted here was unique, funky, independent businesses that have a niche.
One thing I've always felt is that Decatur and Avondale are so close, but it seems they're separated just enough and the people seem to be just different enough, I think most people think Avondale's just not very cool and it's not ... [College Avenue between Decatur and Avondale Estates] is such a weird corridor.
Avondale's always been a beautiful neighborhood, the houses are great, and they're affordable ... I mean all those streets — Dartmouth [Avenue], Exeter [Road], and Berkeley [Road] — look like one of those neighborhoods you see in the movies. Especially in the fall when all those leaves are changing. ... All the power [lines] run behind the houses on the big streets, so you get the canopy of trees. ... [There are] old growth trees. It's designed beautifully.
The absolute greatest thing about Avondale is the swimming pool. It's just perfect. They renovated it about 10 years ago. A few years ago they installed gas grills, redid all the picnic area. ... Everybody goes there. It's sort of the town center.
The two things always [lacking have] been schools and the commercial district. Well, the school thing has sort of been solved with the Museum School. You're not guaranteed a spot, but at least it's there.
[Downtown Avondale Estates is] not a whole lot different. It's a shame. There's two schools of thought on the whole thing: Some people are fine with it being in disarray, [not] having to deal with traffic and noise ... the other school is that we live here and there's literally nowhere to go and eat.
I do think a really neighborhood-oriented [bar and restaurant] that did really did cater to the neighborhood ... would have instant success. It does take an anchor. The positives so exponentially outweigh the negatives. It's going to take some time. My hope is that somebody, like [Brick Store] back in the day, goes in there and calls it home and makes it Avondale's place. I guarantee you it will grow. It will just organically grow and get better.