American history and folklore are filled with heroes who triumphed against the odds with nothing but blunt or shiny objects (see “John Henry,” “The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team,” and ” ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan”).
But this is the U.S. service economy in the 21st century, where computers play the role of pile drivers, and this is a non-fiction blog about alcohol sales in Texas.
The blunt object in this story is a pizza paddle, and our protagonist is Tim Cole, a relatively obscure restaurateur who has shunned computer analysis in launching a $100,000 renovation and obtaining a beer/wine/liquor license for East Dallas-based Atomic Pie.
This is not the norm. Hence, the blog item.
James Phillip Willis, director of training and products management at the Texas Restaurant Association, recommends that entrepreneurs review demographic and liquor sales data before leaping into opening a restaurant, bar or cafe.
“Most of our members take a scientific approach,” he says, adding that many pay consultants to analyze prospective sites (using alcohol sales data, Census data, etc.) before they take the leap.
Doing so reduces the risk, Willis adds. He is a ClubCorp (NYSE: MYCC) veteran; publicly traded companies like that don’t act on gut feelings (because they have no torso) or jump into things without dissecting the numbers.
“Then again, there are people who don’t do it, and hit a home run,” Willis concedes.
As mentioned before, at bat is the Mighty Tim Cole and his quest to break into the beer-and-pizza business with a liquor license and $200,000 for renovations and a considerable amount of grit.
Atomic Pie has done OK over the past five years. Cole has built a loyal following in his Lake Highlands neighborhood, allowing patrons to BYOB, palling around with characters and even pouring them complimentary glasses of wine. Before Atomic Pie, Tim worked for more than two decades at Campisi’s, which claims to be one of the first restaurants to serve New York-style pizzas in Dallas. Patrons he knew from Campisi’s now come to Atomic Pie.
Cole’s non-computerized reasoning for adding beer/wine/liquor sales to his operation (besides making more money) followed two paths:
— The older folks who had never heard of the Food Channel were moving out. Dual-income couples with or without kids were moving in.
— What goes better together than pizza and beer?
OK, it’s more complicated than that.
East Dallas had already started to percolate with Resident Taqueria, One90 Smoked Meats, Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House, and Torchy’s Tacos since Dallas went totally wet. It’s the explosion of Casa Linda Plaza area — where Torchy’s is located, a few miles south of Atomic Pie — that caught Cole’s attention.
Casa Linda languished for years before East Dallas went wet, and Torchy’s has been a prime beneficiary. Could the same thing happen a few miles north?
Willis tells LastCallTexas that while locations are still important factors in siting restaurants, some areas are becoming dining destinations of their own. One Dallas example he sites is Trinity Groves. Could the next destination be Lake Highlands?
Cole found some investors and the hammers have been flying at his restaurant (now open for takeout) for months.
2015 sales in East Dallas
The LastCallTexas analysis (which generated the map above) shows the nearest alcohol-selling pizza joint is Picasso’s, one mile west of Atomic Pie. Picasso’s grossed about $238,000 in sales last year. More importantly, Mi Cocina, nearby, grossed nearly $1 million in alcohol sales in the same period. The big players in East Dallas are symbolized above by the red icons, many of which are concentrated along Northwest Highway and North Central Expressway. The white icon indicates Atomic Pie.
Analysis or not, Atomic Pie and his investors are taking the plunge, expanding to allow alcohol sales and a dining area. Building permits show the work will nearly triple the space of the restaurant, to more than 3,700 square feet. Atomic Pie will likely expand into appetizers, and will serve locally produced ice cream as well (because what goes better with beer and pizza than ice cream?). Cole was heartened when he saw the LastCallTexas analysis that showed the Lake House grossing nearly a million in alcohol sales last year alone.
Cole and his investors are investing a lot of sweat and cash into the pizza-and-beer adage.
If it works out, maybe one day songs will be written about Tim Cole and his pizza paddle.