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Dressed to Impresario

Shrewd duo Chris Hadermann and John Piemonte are shaking up the city’s social scene.

Business partners Chris Hadermann and John Piemonte

Restaurant and nightlife impresarios Chris Hadermann and John Piemonte have made a living out of simply creating places where they want to spend time. The longtime friends and business partners in Southern Proper Hospitality met at Florida State University and both headed north in 1996. “Everyone was coming to Atlanta because of the Olympics,” recalls Hadermann. “All the opportunity was here, but it was thin on cool nightlife options.” Over late night chats, the duo set out to fix that.

At every stage of life, they have created spots they can frequent with their friends. In their 20s it was East Andrews and Andrews Upstairs. Later, ready for something a bit more mature, they sold those businesses in 2006 and bought Milton’s Cuisine in Alpharetta, where the farm-to-table vibe felt more foodie than fratty.

Eventually the pair concepted and launched Tin Lizzy’s and The Big Ketch. Tin Lizzy’s has blossomed into six locations, with many more in the pipeline. Recently, they opened Smokebelly, a chef-driven Buckhead barbecue joint complete with live music. “We’ve always looked for a void in the market and tried to fill it,” reveals Hadermann about their strategy. “With the Buckhead Atlanta development, we saw a huge opportunity.” The pair reached out to real estate developer Oliver McMillan who is building the Buckhead behemoth. “They bought into our passion and ideas,” says Piemonte. Now, two of their concepts, The Southern Gentleman and Gypsy Kitchen are scheduled to open in early fall and promise to be upscale hot spots.

The sister restaurants feature 3,000 square feet of space and an outdoor patio that overlooks prime Peachtree Road real estate. At TSG, picture an ode to Southern design—seersucker drapes, herringbone floors and portraits of Mark Twain and the like by local artist Christian Waggoner. “We’re trying to embody Old South charm in a new and edgy way,” says Piemonte. Two weeks after TSG debuts, they will open Spanish shared-plates concept Gypsy Kitchen. “We don’t rush into anything,” Hadermann intimates. “We’ve been patient for the right opportunities,” adds Piemonte. If the pair’s track record says anything—once again—they’ve pinpointed where the crowds will congregate next.

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