People of Politan Row Kickoff

06.10.2024

If you’ve visited Midtown Atlanta lately, there’s a decent chance you’ve dined at Politan Row, had a cocktail inside Jojo’s Beloved, or spun around the Roselight Room’s dance floor. What once was part of an indoor mall connecting Colony Square’s two main office towers has since evolved into one of the most successful dining destinations in the metro area, serving ~ 12,000 guests weekly.

On June 25, 2021, we celebrated the grand opening of New Orleans-based Politan Group’s largest food hall to date: Politan Row at Colony Square. Instantly its experience, including the chefs, flavors, and hospitality, captured the hearts – and palates – of the culinarily curious.

In honor of three successful years together, we’re launching a new “People of Politan Row” series, highlighting the diverse group of owners, staff, and regulars that keep the food hall running. Before we dive into their stories, we reminisced with CEO and Founder of Politan Group Will Donaldson.

After three years, what is your fondest memory of the opening? 

It’s the individual brand successes that most stick with me. To see each brand start from scratch and (sometimes) grow to have multiple operations in Atlanta is truly amazing. Belli, Unbelibubble, Pretty Little Tacos, and Gekko Kitchen all have had one or more expansion locations. Internally, the Jojo’s team has had so many triumphs over the last three years, including Imbibe’s “75 Places to Watch” nod and many notable “top five” mentions in local periodicals. Each time I get to celebrate the successes with these entrepreneurs, I create a core memory.

What do you like best about how the project has developed? 

I feel like it keeps getting a little bit better each year. We do a lot of editing to infuse guest experience elements that focus on what our core customer is telling us. From our curated soundtrack to weekly activations, I think the offerings keep getting tighter as we grow.

Why was North American Properties (NAP) the right partner, and Colony Square the right location? 

When you’ve been to an NAP-designed destination, you know it immediately. There’s a lot of intention behind the decision-making to create a more “lived-in” sense of place, and the attention to detail is beyond your typical property or office common area. As for being at Colony Square, it makes a huge difference (locationally) as a retailer because it increases that base level of daily foot traffic. 

What’s your favorite dish right now? 

The “mall slice” from Luca’s Brooklyn Pizzeria is my current go-to. It works in a pinch when I just don’t know what I’m craving or when I have a lot going on and forget to eat. The pepperoni is only $6.50 and ready in a flash. It adds a quick-service restaurant element that we needed as a snacking option, but it’s also a high-quality product with fermented dough. If you love pizza like I do, all the elements are there and it’s the most affordable snack at Colony Square.

Does it ever get old? 

Nope. There is literally never a dull moment at a food hall. There’s always a new idea, a new dish, or a new face. And with an operation this big, there is always something to fix, so we stay very busy, but we love it. What I personally love about food halls is the constant evolution of new content – it creates a vibrancy that is tough to match anywhere else. This year in particular, we’ve focused on updating design at the individual brand level, allowing for a more unique expression of each restaurant. This personalization gives the consumer more to interact with and really brings each concept to life, creating an exciting second chapter for the food hall.

Talk to us about Jojo’s, because it has changed too.

It certainly has. We introduced the Roselight Room in January, and for me personally, it added a feeling of completeness. Jojo’s began as a seated cocktail lounge intentionally focused on bringing the drinks and music of the era back to the forefront. It was a “heady” idea born from our years behind the bar. We soon realized that the guest experience worked really well if you were into the cocktails but needed a little more experientially. Roselight is an open seating, event, and dance space in the back that comes alive with era-relevant music and compliments Jojo’s classic cocktail lounge in the front. Roselight was inspired by the Limelight, a legendary Atlanta disco venue from yesteryear.

What should we know that we might not?

Our private events offering is simultaneously the most affordable in Midtown and the best variety. Catered events in three separate spaces from up to 12 chefs. It’s unbeatable. If you haven’t booked one yet, it’s never too late to reach out. We do special occasions of all sizes (from 20 to 700 guests), and we focus on custom events with hyper-competitive value. We’d love to bid your next event.

Any advice you could offer foodpreneurs about the industry?

I could write entire essays about this, so I’ll go with a succinct trifecta. The three things that will make you successful fastest are: pick a vertical that is monetizable, relentlessly edit from guest feedback, and make sure your counter side vibe is top notch. I stress to our new contenders that passion is only part of the equation; they are really here to make money. The formula is less elusive than people might think, but it requires leading from the front, strong people management skills, and a great attitude.

What’s next?

We’re cooking up a new one with NAP for our friends on the north side of town. Politan Row at The Forum (currently under construction) will have several unique elements, a fun design, and a superb variety of food. We can’t wait

Craving more? Tune in to our Instagram (@colonysquareatl) every other week and get to know the Politan crew personally.