Southeast Atlanta is getting awfully sweet.
Hodgepodge Coffee House and Gallery opened up in East Atlanta Village last month, converting an old commercial building on Moreland Avenue into what its owners hope to be an easy spot for creativity and conversation.
While coffee is the main offering, Hodgepodge also features a number of made-on-the-premises sweets, including cupcakes, scones and biscuits.
Located at 720 Moreland Ave., Hodgepodge joins a couple other shops that have opened up in Southeast Atlanta within the last year: the in Grant Park and OMG Cup & Cakes in East Atlanta Village. (A third, Endulge Cupcakes in Ormewood Park, is slated to open this month.)
But Hodgepodge, the creation of owners Krystle McNeill Rodriguez, Lynne Tanzer and Rodriguez's mother, Marvelette McNeill, aims to be more than a coffee shop.
"We wanted it to be an old-school, 90's idea of a coffee shop," Tanzer, who hails from northern England, said. "No snobbery about it — just a good cup of coffee and good conversation."
The coffee shop is 3,300 square feet, with ample wall space to showcase local artists, both established and up-and-comers, something that appealed to Tanzer, who herself is an artist.
But it also speaks to another component of Hodgepodge, which is to be an inviting spot for community events, Rodriguez said.
"We really want to be a haven for the community," she said, explaining they hope to host book clubs, poetry readings and open mic events.
Though the idea of a coffee shop had been percolating for a while, it wasn't until last year that Rodriguez and Tanzer, who met as students at Georgia State University, decided to go into business.
"It started with us walking in Piedmont Park," Rodriguez said, recounting a conversation they were having at the time. "And we were trying to decide what we were going to do with the rest of our lives."
That turned to talk of coffee shops and then searches for a good spot around town.
They looked at a number of spots. Some were too small for what they envisioned. Others were in too much need of work or would require zoning changes and variance approvals.
The Moreland Avenue spot which Rodriguez, her mother and Tanzer leased last July, fit their needs perfectly.
Their intent was to open in September.
But two words — red tape — both at the state and local level caused months long delays.
With Moreland Avenue being a state highway, the Georgia Department of Transportation said they had to widen the entrance/exit point because the agency said it wasn't wide enough based on planning maps that were decades old, Rodriguez said.
Then Atlanta officials said the water runoff in the parking lot exceeded what was permissible, even though Hodgepodge's estimates showed its 30 percent was equal to the business that operated there before.
No dice. The property's owners, who also own Agave in Cabbagetown, had to rip the parking lot up and install a new drainage pipe.
Total cost for the parking lot alone just to get the OK from city officials: $100,000.
The landlords apologized for the delays and government bureaucracy, Tanzer said, adding they said they'd understand if the trio wanted to walk away from the deal and not open.
"They did offer us a chance to opt-out," she said.
But Rodriguez said it was too sweet of a deal and location and the building's owners were so helpful in guiding them throughout the entire process, that they never even considered it.
"I don't think that it was an option that we wouldn't open," she said.