The future of Irwin Street Market
Owner Jake Rothschild says changes are a’comin’Thursday July 7, 2016 08:00 am EDT
“To this day, it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had,” Jake Rothschild says.
As founder of Irwin Street Market, former home of the legendary but short-lived O4W Pizza, Rothschild has even more reasons than the rest of us to feel heartbroken about Grandma Pie’s sudden relocation to Duluth. And yet, he considers chef Anthony Spina’s story more fairy tale than tragedy: “I cared more about his success than mine, and now I have the satisfaction of knowing he is wildly successful.” Indeed, O4WP is thriving OTP, now significantly expanded and closer to Spina’s family home and four young children.
Long before Ponce City or Krog Street markets, there was the humble Irwin Street Market. Yet even after 17 years of operation, the O4W stalwart remains largely misunderstood.
“I’ve had people say all kinds of mean and crazy things about what this place is, that it’s the black hole of business,” Rothschild says. “But the truth of the matter is businesses come here, do really, really well, and then graduate.”
What few understand is that Rothschild considers Irwin Street Market to be an incubator: an affordable space designed to help grow small, local food concepts. Rothschild counts Little Tart Bakery, Bell Street Burritos, and King of Pops among his success stories, but contends that O4W Pizza was a “major turning point.”
Next up: a major expansion, which will retain the incubator model but focus more on anchor tenants, with plenty of input from local residents. This month, the erstwhile pizzeria will be replaced by not one but three new businesses (names still TBA) that Rothschild, with palpable excitement, says will be “unlike anything else in Atlanta.”
In August, the newly renovated central patio will become a community beer garden and barbecue concept called Lingering Shade, featuring 12 different local brewers, including Creature Comforts, Monday Night Brewing, and Arches. Created by Atlanta CPA Lewis Jeffries and inspired by O4W visionaries Kwanza Hall and John Morrison, the beer garden will overlook the Beltline’s Irwin Street access point.
In addition, Rothschild and his team are hauling in 15 repurposed shipping containers to create Atlanta’s first and only container village. Housing a variety of local shops and restaurants, the space will be intentionally designed to keep prices low for both tenants and customers.
“I don’t really understand how to preserve the cool factor of O4W unless it’s affordable,” Rothschild says with a sidelong glance across the street where Teslas are queuing up for valet at Krog Street Market. “Most of them are tourists. This has to be the place where people who live in Atlanta go.”