The Colonnade, the northeast Atlanta restaurant known for its Southern cuisine like fried chicken, vegetables and Parker house rolls, was on the brink of closing recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the 93-year-old eatery got an early Christmas present and a shot in the arm when a gofundme.com fundraiser started Dec. 16 collected $117,830, well above its goal of $100,000, as of Dec. 28.
“It warms your heart that Atlanta is (helping), and not even just Atlanta but people who have lived in Atlanta over the course of time and they really want the Colonnade to stay in business,” said Jodi Stallings, who co-owns the Colonnade with her husband David. “Everybody has a big memory of the Colonnade. … It warms my heart that everyone feels the way I feel about it, being that I’ve been there my entire life.”
The restaurant closed temporarily March 16 due to the outbreak, and did not reopen until July 31. Since then, though, sales have been down about 60 to 70% compared to 2019, Stallings said. It exhausted the funds it received from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Plan, and in the past four weeks, she said she realized the Colonnade may need other financial help to stay afloat.
That’s where Suzi Sheffield stepped in by organizing the gofundme benefit.
“We can’t lose this important Atlanta institution that’s approaching 100 years in business,” she wrote in an introductory message posted to the fundraiser’s webpage.
In a follow-up message posted Dec. 20, Sheffield wrote, “Outstanding, generous and kind people of Atlanta and beyond: You did it! Let's never underestimate the power of teamwork and kindness. We are going to keep this open for donations as these are uncertain times and every dollar will help our treasured Colonnade get through the months ahead.
“Last night upon hearing the good news Jodi texted us: ‘We were so busy tonight as well with people saying they were there to support The Colonnade. All of the sleepless nights...I'm going to sleep like a baby tonight.’”
Individuals donating to the cause also posted messages to the webpage.
“The Colonnade is a beloved Atlanta institution,” one wrote. “The good people of Atlanta who frequent The Colonnade will NEVER let it go under. So glad to see so many people have given to this fund.”
Another wrote, “Season’s greetings and well wishes from Puerto Rico! Numerous and wonderful memories were created at The Colonnade while living in Atlanta from August 1978 to October 2014. I look forward to my next visit to The Nade!”
Stallings said sales have increased by since metro Atlantans who found out about the fundraiser came back to the restaurant to order dine-in or takeout meals. However, since the Colonnade customer’s median age is in the mid-50s to 60, including seniors who are not allowed to leave their retirement homes or are afraid to due to the pandemic, sales are still down by about 40%.
“I hope (the fundraiser) helps us the next few months to get over the hump until everybody figures out where things will shake out a bit with the (COVID-19) vaccine,” Stallings said. “… When we reopened in July, I had high hopes thinking we would go back to somewhat normal. We have our tables distanced. The patio should be open again with heaters and a tent hopefully next week.”
Stallings said the restaurant is closed this week since it’s normally closed Mondays and Tuesdays and always closes for Christmas Eve and Day, but it will reopen Dec. 26. She’s thinking about opening for New Year’s Day “because we’re known for that,” but may offer a limited menu that day or instead only offer to-go meals because of the outbreak.
“Our to-go business has been tremendous this past weekend, which has been great, but it’s like having another restaurant within a restaurant,” Stallings said.