Jason and Sera Speegle have both been working in the service industry since they were 13. Jason started out washing dishes — Sera, scooping ice cream. After years of working in other people’s restaurants, they’ve done what they always talked, and dreamed of: they opened their own place.
The Fountain, the Speegles’ new cocktail bar, is the latest addition to downtown Acworth. With a colorful, Art Deco-inspired theme, it serves up $12 cocktails, beer and wine, and a small menu of sandwiches, salads and sharable snacks.
The name was inspired by the Speegles’ travels in Latin America. In many of the colonial towns they’ve visited together, large plazas are anchored by a fountain to which people from all walks of life flock at sunset. That community-centered vibe is what they’re going for with The Fountain.
“Somebody could have a great cocktail, or somebody could have a Michelob Ultra, and those two people could feel just as comfortable,” Sera Speegle said.
Colorful and flamingo-themed decorations are also inspired by Latin America, where the Speegles were charmed by old buildings with splashes of color.
Their travels also help inform the menu. The fare, described by Jason Speegle as favorite comfort foods, includes Cuban sandwiches, Mediterranean falafel wraps, Southern starters such as pimento cheese and a spruced-up Chicago dog, a nod to Sera’s midwestern roots.
“We definitely wanted to pay tribute to kind of that wanderlust, and make it feel almost like a vacation inside,” Sera Speegle said.
The couple met in Asheville, where they were both working in restaurants. But the development there meant rising rents and a more competitive culinary scene. Those push factors, combined with Sera’s mother contracting a rare and aggressive form of cancer, led to the Speegles moving to Cobb in 2018. They fell in love with Acworth’s small-town charm and were drawn to its proximity to outdoor recreation.
“We’re like, ‘Maybe it’s time to find the next cool place,’” Jason Speegle said. “And I think we have found that with Acworth.”
Sera Speegle added that they saw the potential Acworth’s Main Street had. They feel part of a small community there, while also being less than an hour from the big city.
For a time, Sera Speegle was working in Midtown Atlanta while Jason worked in Marietta, both in the service industry. Sera’s mother passed away, leaving them an inheritance “with the specific instructions that it was not meant to go in a bank account,” Jason Speegle said. “It was meant to fund our dream.”
Sera Speegle added that “it wouldn’t have been without her, that we were able to do it.”
The Main Street space was formerly occupied by Brix on Main. The building’s owner liked their concept. The Speegles consider The Fountain to be a cocktail bar first, which happens to serve food and other alcohol. They felt they were filling a niche, since Acworth didn’t have any “true, honest-to-God, cocktail-forward cocktail bars,” as Jason Speegle put it.
The couple are fans of rum, tequila, mezcal and cognac, and wanted to offer something more interesting than the typical sugary vodka drinks. Right now, the cocktail menu “leans tiki,” but it will likely change with the seasons.
“The community really were the people that let us know that what we had in mind was something that they felt like they needed,” Jason Speegle said. “People were constantly stopping by and asking us what we were going to be. … People were just really excited, really enthusiastic, and I think … looking for something different.”
The couple has an 11-month-old girl, Emi Louise. The business being owned by a local family draws Acworth resident Toby Carmichael to the bar.
“We’re here to support them because they have a child, and they’re opening a new restaurant in town. … they are locally oriented,” Carmichael said at The Fountain last weekend.
Carmichael also said he was impressed by the standards the Speegles had set for themselves, such as, not hiring staff unless they can pay them a living wage — “they won’t hire them until they’re grossing enough to support them as a family,” Carmichael said.
After four weeks of operation, the bar has done well in the evenings, Sera Speegle said, attracting a few regulars already. The couple has tweaked the menu and will do away with lunch service for now. They plan to open for weekend brunch and want to incorporate special, ticketed events, such as cocktail lessons. It’s all about being adaptable and finding out what works.
That applies to the COVID-19 situation too. The menu items can easily be transitioned for to-go sales, the Speegles said. An outdoor deck is useful for people wanting to stay outdoors, and they’ve ordered a large, retractable window to allow more airflow. Sera Speegle reckons the community-focused bar has been a welcome addition after the isolation of the pandemic.
“As a bartender, for so long it’s gotten to a point where over the past few years you look at your bar and everybody is looking at their phones, and no one’s talking to each other,” she said. “I haven’t had that feeling once since opening this bar, because I think people are just so happy to be back out and socializing again.”