Alpharetta Community Thanksgiving Service

Each year during the week of Thanksgiving several Alpharetta church congregations partner to offer a community Thanksgiving worship service. My family and I attended the service last year at St James Methodist. We found this ecumenical service to be meaningful, relevant and the host congregation very hospitable. I encourage you to attend this year at St. Aidan’s and bring your family. Here are the details:

What: Alpharetta Community Thanksgiving Service

Where: St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 13560 Cogburn Road

When: Tuesday November 20th, 7:00pm

Clergy from several congregations will share in worship leadership with Dr. Don Martin of Alpharetta First Methodist delivering the sermon. Dr. Martin is a great speaker with a humorous and down-home approach to his sermons. I look forward to hearing his Thanksgiving message to the community.

A special offering will be collected to benefit North Fulton Community Charities. A time of fellowship and refreshments will follow the service.

Poll – Best new Alpharetta-area restaurant of 2012

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

We spend a lot of time here on Fridays talking about new restaurants. We scope out the restaurant scene and spy on new joints as they are conceived. Hopefully I build some anticipation, spur my readers into trying new joints and support great local restauranteurs.

We can just about close out the books on new restaurants in 2012. Nothing on my coming soon list is likely to open in 2012, with the exception of maybe Mambo’s Cafe new location on Windward.

So what that in mind, what do you think was the best or most anticipated new Alpharetta-area restaurant to open in 2012? I want to hear from you! Assembled below, in no particular order, is a list of every new restaurant we talked about this year. Remember that my coverage area is Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and extreme south Forsyth.

So pick your favorite and let me know what you think of the overall list. Was this a good class of new restaurants? Did anyone knock your socks off? And if you have a favorite new joint south of the border in Roswell, leave me a comment!


Alpharetta Jobs – November 2012

Largest Employers  
Verizon 120
ADP 79
McKesson 75
Radiant/NCR 59
LexisNexis 53
Equifax 50
Siemens 48
Comcast 17
Ryder 15
AIG 13
E-Trade 12
UPS 10
HP 5
Alcatel-Lucent 0

Requests come in from time to time for me to dust off the old jobs report column. This used to be a monthly feature here on Roots with the numbers trended. Unfortunately in 2012 your blogger hasn’t had the time to tabulate these stats.

How does this report work? I query the career websites of scores of Alpharetta-area employers and tally up the number of openings. This report was gathered on November 13th. All attempts are made to maintain accuracy but errors are possible.

What do the numbers show? There are over 800 advertised positions, mainly in information technology, healthcare and insurance. The degree to which employers are filling these positions is tough to measure. These could be open requisitions that are just sitting out there. Or on the other hand, firms may have interviews scheduled all day to fill these spots.

But what we can see is trends. For example, Windward Parkway’s HP has only five openings, down from a high of close to 150 last year. On the other hand, telecom hiring at Verizon (in both their residential and wireless businesses) has grown substantially over this time last year.

Alpharetta’s relatively low employment numbers might explain the results in this report. This area continues to enjoy the state’s lowest unemployment rates.

On November 1st RedPrairie announced the $1.9 billion acquisition of Scottsdale, Arizona-based JDA. The combined company will be the largest pure-play supply chain management software shop in the nation.

Mid-sized Employers  
Infor 41
MedAssets 32
Verint Systems 32
RedPrairie 26
Scientific Games 23
Traveners Insurance 17
AT&T 12
ACE American Insurnace 11
Marketsource 9
VeriFone 9
Total System Services 8
Colorox 8
IPSwitch 8
ISTA North America 8
Landis+Gyr 7
Hanjin Shipping 6
Colonial Pipeline 4
Coca-Cola Refreshments 3
Leaseplan USA 3
LaFarge 3
Crown Castle 3
Amdocs 3
Honda 3
Metlife 2
Ciena 2
Phillips 2
Microsoft 2
AdvancED 2
ThyssenKrupp 2
Research in Motion 1
Promethean 1
Neehan Paper 1
Outcomes Health 0
New York Life 0
GXS/Inovis 0
Farmers Insurance 0

What gives politicians and business leaders angst is the possibility of a firm leaving Alpharetta after a large merger like this. Cost savings are certainly on the minds of executives and office consolidation is an easy way to do that. Might the Prairie leave their digs on Brookside Parkway for sunny Arizona, taking hundreds of well-paid cubicle dwellers with them?

We had the same conversation about RedPrairie’s next door neighbor, Radiant. In July 2011 Gwinnett County-based NCR purchased Radiant. As of now, their Alpharetta office is still open and seeking 59 new employees. There’s a lot that goes into a corporate relocation and they take time. But if RedPrairie and Radiant both leave Alpharetta, Brookside Parkway could become the equivalent of a cubicle ghost town.

But back to the jobs report. Is this information useful and relevant to the business and IT community of Alpharetta? I occasionally get emails regarding these stats. The Revue and News continues to ask to publish them (look in next week’s paper). But as a reader of my blog, do you find them interesting and curious, or a waste of valuable space in the internet pipes? Let me know!

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – November 2012

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

It hasn’t been a tremendously busy month for restaurant news. There are a few joints and thankfully no closures to report. But if last year is any indication, I expect to see a handful of places close at the end of the year.

Campania Pizzeria – We’re slowly starting to learn more details of this place coming soon to the vacant stripmall at 800 North Main Street in Alpharetta. They will be a Neapolitan-style pizza joint, a genre we don’t see a lot of in these parts. Look for a February 2013 opening. Stay tuned to Foodie Friday for more details.

Next week is Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. So maybe it’s no coincidence that I have two new Indian joints to report. Is Alpharetta saturated with Indian cuisine? Perhaps not as I don’t report on many closures.

The first is Mayuri Indian Restaurant which will open in the old Pizza Hut/Woody’s BBQ space near North Point Mall. Mayuri is a Hindi word for a female peacock (a peahen I guess). Buildout is starting now.

Nilgiris Bakery and Cafe is now open on GA141 near Brookwood in south Forsyth. Look for Indian food and sweets. They are across the street from Target in a tough spot to see from the road.

A small restaurant called Sushi Mania is planning to open in Johns Creek. They will be in the Camden Village shopping center near the original Marlow’s Tavern on Old Alabama near Jones Bridge.

And don’t forget that tomorrow is Alpharetta’s newest foodie event, Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks. The fun starts at 1:00 pm in downtown Alpharetta. For more information see the article I wrote three weeks ago or hit the city’s website here.

Now Open

Sally’s Gluten Free Bakery opened on October 25th. Look for them on Kimball Bridge a bit south of Old Milton. Tap on Main opened doors a few weeks ago in downtown Alpharetta. I’d call it a soft opening really. Check them out in the old Coffee Pot location. Expect a decent selection of craft beer (but not like at a growler store) and some smallish-yet-manly sandwiches.

And I’m pleased as punch to report that Grand Champion BBQ has finally opened in Crabapple after an excruciatingly-long delay. You can expect to find Q made with amazing attention to detail that’s almost competition caliber. The space is a little small though. They’re in the old Elements Coffee location.

And finally, Bite is set to reopen in a matter of days. They temporarily closed their much-hyped Alpharetta restaurant while construction crews knocked down a wall and expanded into the adjacent space. It’ll be interesting to see what these guys can do with a full bar offering. In the meantime, drool over this picture of their lobster roll.

Retail News

Not a lot to report in this space. A cell phone repair shop called Bob Knows Phones has opened on Haynes Bridge near the new Walmart Neighborhood Market. This might be a cheaper alternative for hipsters seeking to repair their expensive Apple products. And a new salon called Studio NV is planning an opening on Windward near the new Mambo’s Cafe. More on Mambo’s in a minute.

Restaurants Coming Soon

OVR Coffee Cafe – A vegan bakery and coffee shop in south Forsyth’s Vickery Village. Look for them in the old Mommy Francis space.
Mambo’s Cafe – Construction is coming along in their new space on Windward. Can’t wait for these guys to reopen.
Tower Burgers - They are looking at the old Sonic building on South Main Street but there is still no sign of life here.
Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical – A trifecta of new restaurants to be built on Haynes Bridge near the mall entrance. I expect Pollo Tropical to be the first of the three to emerge.
BurgerFI – Fast-casual burger concept coming to Windward next to FedEx.

Do Presidential elections matter in Alpharetta?

Do Presidential elections matter here in the affluent burbs? They probably don’t deserve the effort or attention we give them. Before you label me a cynic or sore Republican loser, hear me out.

Georgia continues to be a solidly red state. The poll numbers during this election never doubted this fact, placing our state in the “solid Romney” column all along. Our sixteen electoral votes were practically counted before anyone mashed a finger to a voting screen. Yet voters turned out in huge numbers.

The presidential election is a circus that goes on forever. Most of what you hear from candidates is carefully screened and put before focus groups. It lacks substance. And as the campaign looms, the talk of the election changes from issues to the race itself. We watch poll numbers and campaign strategy. In the waning weeks no one is bantering issues or ideas. It ends up feeling like more of a popularity contest, like I’m voting for American Idol or something.

Contrast this with local elections. Thankfully they are far shorter in their duration and usually over in one cycle. In most cases candidates lack the funds to conduct a lot of polls or focus groups. Topics actually include issues – real issues that effect your everyday life. In fact I’d argue that local elections are probably more important to what truly matters to you than any national election.

Don’t get me wrong, the presidential election is important. Washington will always take a larger hunk of your wallet than city hall. But it’s the decisions at school board meetings, county commission meetings and among city councilmen that can have an enormous impact on YOU! How?

Your school board decides how your children will be educated. They redistrict neighborhoods, pick your child’s curriculum or oversee your charter schools.

The alphabet soup of transportation agencies (ARC, GRTA, STRA, GDOT, etc) make decisions (usually frightfully bad ones) that effect your commute. How much time do you spend in traffic, away from your family? Barack Obama isn’t likely to improve or worsen your commute.

City Hall directs land use planning. Their decisions have a tremendous impact on your quality of life, the amenities offered in your area and property values. Yet changes to this process attract relatively little attention when compared to the hoopla surrounding Obama’s reelection. It’s a shame really.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should skip the presidential elections. I was among the 80.7% of Forsyth County voters who picked Mitt Romney on Tuesday. But if you’re seeking a place to direct all this leftover political energy, try looking a little closer to home. You might think Barack Obama will run this country into the ground, but local politicians have the potential to wreck your property values, schools or drive to work. Pay attention!

Photo Credit: The Suss-Man Mike (creative commons)

Mac Meal – South Main Street

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

Mac Meal is one of the newest international restaurants to make an appearance in Alpharetta.  I was driving down Hwy 9 and noticed the large red sign in the Northfall business complex but had no idea what Mac Meal was. A search online revealed very little information other than they served Mediterranean food. It warranted a visit to see what Mac Meal was all about.

Mac Meal opened a little over five months ago. The owners moved to the US about a year ago from Persia. The Alpharetta location is actually the third location. The other two are in Australia and are run by the owners three children.

The place was clean and neat.  It looked like they recycled some of the decor from Quiznos, the former tenant. The smell of the gyro meat was intoxicating. The menu is typical Greek/Middle Eastern, but it is a little small. There are only twelve main items. Items range from gyros to falafel to hamburgers to salads. There was talk of eventually adding a smoker to make kabobs. There is also a breakfast menu posted on the wall with several types of omelets and eggs to choose from. I found the breakfast menu a little odd since they don’t open until 10:00 AM.

The owners were very nice and conversational while my food was being prepared. They seemed very eager to make a good impression. I ordered a gyro with fries for me and a Mediterranean salad for my wife. The salad was prepared from scratch as I ordered it, and it was huge! Lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, onions, carrots and tomatoes all went into my to go container. I opted to add gyro meat for $2.00 more. The container could barely be closed once they were done. My wife loved it. The only complaint was the lack of tzatziki sauce. It would have been $1.50 extra. The gyro meat was sliced off of the vertical rotisserie and then placed on the flat top for a little extra sizzle.

My gyro was also made from scratch while I waited. It was also gigantic, overflowing with meat, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and smothered with tzatziki sauce. It was nearly 9 inches long. Although the fries were frozen, they were well cooked and weren’t bad. My son loved them. The gyro meat was super tasty, juicy and tender. The tzatziki sauce was a little on the bland side for my tastes.

The prices were very reasonable. I got out of there for less than twenty bucks. The gyro was $5.99 and the endless salad was $6.99. We were completely stuffed afterwards.

Mac Meal on Urbanspoon

Mac Meal doesn’t have an internet or social media presence, which will hurt in this day and age. There’s no way to find an online menu or even a phone number. I took a menu as I was leaving and noted that there is a web site listed on the back. I went to it and it doesn’t exist. The place was empty at 5:30 PM but I was told that lunch is a busier time. The food was excellent but relying on word of mouth will take time. I look forward to many more delicious meals.

Alpharetta – Suburban Wasteland?

Alpharetta is a suburban wasteland, full of strip malls, disconnected communities and traffic. The “suburban experiment” this country engaged in has failed.

From time to time I hear urbanists spout things like this. Certainly what we recognize as modern suburbia will dwindle and die out, right? Eventually no one will want to live here.

Or better yet, urbanists will follow this fill-in-the-blank model with their logic. “If Alpharetta doesn’t ______, then ______ will happen.” You can fill in the blanks with just about anything. How about – If Alpharetta doesn’t adopt the tenants of new urbanism then young people won’t move here and employers will leave. Or how about – If we don’t pass T-SPLOST, employers won’t relocate here.

If Alpharetta is truly a suburban wasteland, why is this city such an amazing place to live? Why do people and companies keep coming here? Just look at the news in the last few weeks.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that Alpharetta’s Windward Parkway is on a short list of possible locations for General Motors’ new 1,500 employee IT innovation center. GM, being from Detroit, certainly knows what a wasteland looks like. Alpharetta is no wasteland.

Or how about Gwinnett Tech choosing Alpharetta over every other city in north Fulton? Certainly the strong workforce here was a factor. The Georgia Department of Labor reported last week that Alpharetta’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.3%, the lowest in Georgia. Wastelands have large swaths of struggling, unemployed citizens. Alpharetta doesn’t.

The real estate market here is doing surprisingly well given the national economy. We’re starting to see new development of single family home neighborhoods again. Realtor Bob Strader declared on his blog last week that we’re in a seller’s market! People can’t sell homes in wastelands.

Reports of Alpharetta’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It boggles the mind to think that politicians, policy makers, city staff or others would dare tinker with the recipe that brought Alpharetta such sweet success.

This community is thriving. Job prospects in Alpharetta are good, quality of life fantastic and school system exceptional. This is a great place to live, work or raise a family – by any measure. I challenge you to find news today that suggests otherwise.

Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB (creative commons)

Would you eat at this joint?

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Would you eat a meal at this joint if had the following inspection report?

Date mark all food items taken out of original packaging. No consistent date marking procedure.
Observed several food containers not properly labeled/ cooked vegetables/ tater tot casserole.
Observed failure to label repackaged food items.
Workers handling food must have hair restraints.
Using open drink cups in food prep area. Do not eat or drink in food prep area.
Worker seen handling ready to eat food with bare hands when glove or utensil use is required.
Observed personal items stored with, or next to, food items; designate specific area.

That’s certainly a below-par score. Are you going to be praying to the porcelain god after eating at this place? Is it worth rolling the dice?

What if I told you this isn’t a restaurant but rather my kitchen. That’s right, I attempted to score myself using the same standards as published by the Georgia Department of Public Health. The tater tot casserole was a dead giveaway, wasn’t it?

So would you still eat here? Master chef I’m not, but I make a pretty mean shrimp gumbo. You’d be missing out!

Maybe it isn’t a fair comparison. We should hold restaurants to very high standards of food safety. For example, I’m thankful restaurant workers are required to use gloves when handling food. But some of the recent changes to Georgia’s inspection process have dinged reputable restaurants that never posed a danger to food safety.

I’m thinking primarily of food labeling rules. I know that my wife made the tater tot casserole two nights ago. It’s still safe to eat (and still delicious). A small mom and pop restaurant with limited kitchen staff is likely to know when food hit their fridge as well.

But not labeling and dating repackaged grub could ding a restaurant a half letter grade or more. And if the inspector spies a bartender sticking a lemon in a beer with his bare hands then all of a sudden your stellar restaurant is looking at a low-B grade.

So what’s a food safety conscience gastronome to do? Relying on score alone doesn’t cut it for me – although repeat offenders get little sympathy. Temperature holding violations are my most serious concern. And insect/rodent infestation is downright nasty.

What are your warning flags are for restaurant inspections? Do you go by score alone? And where might I purchase a hairnet?

On tragedy and not blogging

One thing I’ve learned from blogging is that sometimes you shouldn’t. The decision not to write about something can be more important than writing itself. That’s the case this week.

In a matter of just a few days two tragedies hit this community resulting in the loss of life. Both were senseless. It would be easy to write something angry and bitter. No doubt some of those involved were careless or acted irresponsibly.

And there’s probably a blog post or two in here about living in an affluent suburb and what comes with that.

But now’s not the time. At the end of the day two lives were taken much too soon. People are grieving. Let them grieve.

Instead spend an extra bit of time with those you love. Step away from the hustle and bustle of suburban life for a moment. Be reminded and refocused on what’s important in life.

Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Alpharetta used to have a culinary edge over Roswell. It was small – and brief – and now gone. But for a time Alpharetta was welcoming trendy food trucks to town before Roswell.

About a year and a half ago a handful of food trucks started testing the waters in Alpharetta. They’d hitch up at the farmer’s market, an occasional office park for lunch or at Harry’s. And best of all, they were driving past Roswell to get here! Alpharetta foodies rejoiced.

But recently things have slowed. Roswell passed a food truck ordinance and their monthly Alive After Five event is drawing trucks in larger numbers. Alpharetta looks to even the score with November’s food truck and wine event – Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks.

The event will feature $3 food tasting from the trucks and $3 half wine glass offerings from Sip Wine and Vino 100. The food truck roundup will be:

Hail Caesar – Offering salads and sandwiches made with local ingredients.
Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen – Also featuring fresh ingredients and prodigious use of big green eggs.
The Blaxican – Mexican/soul food fusion. Think you’d ever find something like this in a suburban restaurant?
Wow Food Truck – Featuring arepas – griddled corn cakes from Venezuela stuffed with savory meats.
Yum Yum Cupcake – Fancy cupcakes.

The city of Alpharetta’s staff do a tremendous job pulling off events like this. I hope it becomes a regular feature downtown. Here’s the 411…

What: Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks
When: Saturday, November 10, 2012 1:00 PM
Where: Downtown Alpharetta, across from city hall

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