Landmark sandwich shop on Marietta Square closing over rent dispute
by Leo Hohmann
March 13, 2013 12:18 AM | 11518 views | 27 27 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A line of customers wait for lunch at Tommy's (MDJ/Leo Hohmann)
A line of customers wait for lunch at Tommy's (MDJ/Leo Hohmann)
slideshow
Tommy Smith, restaurant owner<br>Staff/Leo Hohmann
Tommy Smith, restaurant owner
Staff/Leo Hohmann
slideshow

Everything inside Tommy’s Sandwich Shop seems to hearken back to the 1970s.

From the Billy Joel tunes blasting from the speakers to the Formica tables and shiny steel napkin holders, everything looks like a holdover from the era when the Beatles were just slightly out of fashion and Jimmy Carter roamed the White House.

Tommy Smith, who opened the place in 1977, still greets his customers with a friendly smile, but he is not happy about his current situation.

He’s closing the lunchtime fixture on the square, which sits right across from the courthouse complex, at the end of this month.

“My landlord won’t work with me, whatsoever,” he said Tuesday. “ We've sent letters back and forth, and he just won’t come off his rent.”

Smith says he received a letter on Jan. 15 from Manning Properties, which owns the building at 148 Roswell St., notifying him that his monthly rent would increase from $1,200 to $1,750 as of Feb. 1.

After two months at the higher rate, Smith has decided it’s just not worth it to stay in business.

So, after 36 years behind the counter of the square’s oldest restaurant, Smith is folding his tent. His last day preparing breakfasts and lunches for downtown workers and visitors will be March 29.

“Business has been really slow for the last four years,” he said. “ We've got 31 other restaurants we’re competing against here on the square. It’s a food court now. You can only divide the pot so many times.”

Back in 1977 when Smith opened Tommy’s, there were only three other places to eat on the Marietta Square, he said. There was a Greek restaurant and a couple of drug stores with lunch counters.

These days, folks have their choice of Thai food, Australian baked goods, Italian, Mediterranean, Irish, English, a New York deli and traditional American fare.

Aymar Manning of Manning Properties confirmed that his company has raised the rent on Tommy’s space.

“Tommy’s been a good tenant,” he said. “We’ll be looking for another tenant and hope, whoever it is, is as good as Tommy was. I've had three or four calls already on that space, because it really is a nice corner there.”

Manning would not comment on his plans for the building, at the corner of Roswell and Atlanta streets, which he said has been “in the family” since it was built back in the early 1900s.

“I’m going to wait and see what happens and who might want to do what with it,” he said.

Before it became a restaurant in 1977, the building was the longtime home of Groover's Hardware, which later became Cobb Hardware and moved off the square.

Sad day for loyal customers

Tommy’s regular customers looked surprised Tuesday when told that their favorite place to spend their lunch hour will soon be serving its last sandwich.

“I like his chicken salad, and I like the egg salad. It’s all good,” said Mindy Eason, who works at United Community Bank on the square and has been coming to Tommy’s for lunch since the mid-1980s. “I like everything about it. The food, just the whole atmosphere, the workers. And you can come and sit and watch the traffic go by, then go for a walk on the square afterwards.”

Jefrey Breshears said he has been coming to Tommy’s for 30 years. He said Smith always knows what to start making — roast beef on rye — as soon as he walks in the door.

“We raised our family just off the square and brought friends and family in here over the years. I would tell them that Tommy could actually read people’s minds. He’ll be missed,” Breshears said. “There’s not many places like this anymore, where you actually know the proprietor. But, as George Harrison once said, ‘All things must pass.’”

Smith said he just started telling his most loyal customers the bad news over the past couple of days.

“Most of them don’t believe me yet,” he said. “They’re like, ‘No way!’ I’m the oldest restaurant on the square.”

Owner may resurface in west Cobb

Smith said he has no plans to reopen his shop elsewhere.

“No sir. I've had enough fun in the restaurant business,” he said. “Thirty-six years is long enough.”

But he isn't ready to retire. He’s mulling a comeback as a liquor store proprietor.

“We’re thinking about opening a liquor store in west Cobb,” Smith said, adding that he has his eye on a vacant store front at the intersection of Acworth Due West and Kennesaw Due West roads.

“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Who knows?”

 

Comments
(27)
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Lightwaveman
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April 02, 2013
Bummer, Tommy's was my favorite place to eat. Both my children have been going there since they were born and love the Pamento Cheese. I find it sad that Manning doesn't have anymore pride in our downtown to keep this great sandwich shop open. So another place will soon go in, be around for a few months and go out of business. It has been happening at an alarming rate all over the square. I used to love going to the square, but now it just doesn't have that quaint feel it used to have, all my favorite places have been run off. Guess it is time to take my business elsewhere.
Casey Smith
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March 26, 2013
You will be missed Tommy!! Thanks for all the memories and lunches you provided my family and the Wiser Wealth Management team. Smooth sailing ahead :)
Reba S.
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March 14, 2013
Open your own company, market your chicken salad and buy the Mannings out!!!
Mark D
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March 14, 2013
If you provided a quality product and good customer service you wouldn't have to worry about the small rent increase. In my year's on the square I have only been in there twice and was treated rudely and given a crude sandwich I could have made at home. Competion is a good thing and has served it's purpose here. Now we may be able to get something of quality in it's place.
Pam J
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March 13, 2013
It really is a shame that the rent went up that much. Several places have closed over the years because of rent increases. Some of them maybe needed to close, but not all of them. Two empty buildings in Smyrna where Dairy Queen was and Fat Boys was because they raised the rent. Now they are getting no rent because nobody wants the buildings. Way to shoot yourself in the foot.
Old timer
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March 13, 2013
Would love this place in west Cobb....we need some local flavor...

Dion4
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March 13, 2013
whereever tommy opens his liquor store, I'll start buying all my liquor there---good to buy local.
Old timer
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March 13, 2013
Tommy we need this in west Cobb..nothing original here
JR in Mableton
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March 13, 2013
Is there not other space to rent?
Old Mayretta
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March 13, 2013
Looks like the Mannings may have fallen on tough times. Selling their own houses, raising other's rent.
greta james
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March 13, 2013
So Judy Manning lost her House seat and now must make up the ...income.
Mellieb409c
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March 13, 2013
Hate to see it go but this is the sign of the times. Rent goes up on stores & they can't pay it so they close down...so sad! Tommy's has the best chicken salad sandwiches around. God Bless Tommy.
Happy Face
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March 13, 2013
I hope this is a blessing for you Tommy. I know it is tough but maybe you will be better off.
Court Dawg
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March 13, 2013
A great sandwich shop. Always my regular stop to refuel and relax when I get to go to Cobb's otherwise bleak courthouse. Tommy, you are the man. Your next endeavor will do great!

I'm no Marietta insider- I assume the building is owned by trust fund "kids"?
cobb realist
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March 13, 2013
Jealous there Court Dawg?? Someone made smart choices in their life and passed the rewards down thru their family - good for them!!
Mellieb409c
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March 13, 2013
they usually are.
Louis Winthorpe III
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March 13, 2013
Great, now that Tommy has been run off, we can get another sorely needed tattoo parlor on the square. (Insert sarcastic laugh here).
Church Streeter
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March 13, 2013
A 46% rent increase with 15 days notice? For a "good tenant" who's been in business at that location since 1977, you'd think the Landlord would have a little more decency. What happened to pending lease expiration negotiations? I hope future tenants take note of the way this guy was run out of his space because Aymar wanted to raise the rent. Total jerk move.
Marietta Store Owner
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April 02, 2013
I agree completely. Who would want to rent from someone who gives 46% rent increases to a 35 year loyal tenant. I know I wouldn't!!!
Keith Reece
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March 13, 2013
What a shame to see a landmark like Tommy's Sandwich Shop close. I used to eat lunch there when I worked at the courthouse. Just goes to show that loyalty and a good tenant means nothing to some landlords.
Julie Smart
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March 13, 2013
Tommy your sandwich shop will be missed. We could always depend on a good sandwich when we came in at a reasonable cost. Maybe if you would give the Mannings a lunch a week, they might reconsider, but since Judy is out of politics, they must need the money. Bon appetit.
Robert Hand
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March 13, 2013
$1200. a month No way---$1750 for a prime location on the square, still too cheap. Shows how bad this economy is---Things are not getting any better.
CT1977
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March 21, 2013
Couldn't agree with you more....BUT it also looks like the trust fund kids have bigger plans for this nice corner lot.
Vorant
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March 13, 2013
Sounds like Manning Properties has "other plans" for that spot and the easiest way to get rid of Tommy was the old raise the rent scheme. No one in their right mind raises rates in this economy....
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