When Slim+Husky’s Pizza Beeria opened yesterday in West Midtown Atlanta at 1016 Howell Mill Road, the lines were out the door.

It was a familiar feeling for the restaurant’s owners, a trio of childhood friends—Clinton Gray III, Emmanual Reed, and Derrick Moore—who have now seen their initial vision expand from one highly popular storefront in north Nashville to two additional locations in Nashville, the West Midtown location here in Atlanta.

The trio has at least three more store openings scheduled for this fall—including a second Atlanta location on Metropolitan Parkway in Adair Park.

Yesterday’s opening was special for the three owners, though. The Howell Mill Road store represents the restaurant’s first footprint outside of Tennessee.

“We’ve had the idea to open an Atlanta location for the last three years,” Reed said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to execute on that idea and bring Slim+Husky’s to Atlanta. We’re extremely excited.

“The response has been very positive up through this point,” he continued. “We’re just looking to continue to grow our footprint here.”

And the timing and the location of the restaurant couldn’t be more ideal, Gray revealed.

“This is actually our first location in a thriving, development filled neighborhood,” he said. “Coming to Atlanta, we wanted to find a location that would attract a large demographic of people. We also wanted a space that could embody the type of black culture that we like to highlight in our store.

“This location gave us the space to do that, with its tall ceilings, spacious layout and its location in the mix of everything—we’re very close to Georgia Tech and downtown Atlanta,” he added. “The West Midtown area, in general, is a great location.”

Slim+Husky’s Pizza Beeria is a fast casual and gourmet pizza joint serving up artisan pizzas and unique cinnamon rolls made with locally sourced ingredients. In addition, the restaurant features 10 local craft beers on tap.

“Slim+Husky’s is an extension of who we are as individuals,” explained Gray, who serves as the company’s chief marketing officer. “We were three childhood friends who grew up in the 90s listening to hip-hop and R&B—we liked to play our music loud, we had an appreciation for the Arts and the community.

“So we just took all of our values and crammed them into one big package,” he continued. “We’ve been able to use pizza as a vehicle to connect and engage with our community.”

In anticipation of opening the Midtown location, Slim+Husky’s partnered with the popular Trap Museum for a pop-up event in March. During the event, which attracted several hundred participants, registrants were able to sample pies, cinnamon rolls and check out the museum’s attractions.

Then, on Monday and Tuesday of this week, the restaurant hosted a couple of soft openings—one for Metro Atlanta educators and another for area business owners and other restauranteurs.

Andrea Edge, an instructional coach for Gwinnett County Schools, attended the Monday soft opening and said she was delighted to try the restaurant’s Cee-No Green, Slim+Husky’s version of a meat lover’s style pizza topped with ground beef, pepperoni, hickory-smoked bacon, Canadian bacon, and Italian sausage.

“The fact that the owners opened up their doors for us and offered us free dinner, I’m just really appreciative,” Edge said. “The food is great, the company was great—we got to meet new people, and it was an overall great experience.

For another Atlanta educator Katrina Jones, a visit to Slim+Husky’s in Atlanta was a welcome alternative to exercising her pizza cravings whenever she visits her brothers in Nashville.

“My brothers who live in Nashville sent me the link about the soft opening for educators,” said Jones, an Indianapolis native who teaches at Deerwood Academy in southwest Atlanta. “Whenever I visit them in Nashville, I have them take me to Slim+Husky’s.”

And Jones loves more than just the artisan style pizzas the pizzeria is known for.

“I love the 90s vibe, the pizza itself is also great,” she said. “But I also love the fact that the restaurant is black-owned and that the owners are creating more jobs.”

This time, Jones said she built her own pie, opting for the restaurant’s creamy white Alfredo based sauce topped with smoked salmon and red peppers. She also tried the Ninja Tartlet, a cinnamon roll drizzled with a green apple sauce and topped with brown sugar crumbles.

Like Jones and Edge, many of the customers leaving Slim+Huskys have been leaving with smiles on their faces and vows to come back soon.

Those smiles and vows are what Slim+Husky’s new CEO Betty Marshall is looking for.

For a little more than two months, Marshall has come into the company and worked with its owners to streamline their systems and figure out ways to continue to improve on customer satisfaction.

Marshall brings a lot of restaurant experience to the company, having served as chief administrative officer at the Phoenix Restaurant Group, Director of Purchasing for Atlanta-based Arby’s Inc., and additional service at Sam’s Club and Shoney’s Restaurants.

“Joining Slim+Husky’s was an endeavor I couldn’t pass by, once you look at the excitement that the three founders bring,” Marshall said. “I want to make sure that we grow the right way: we need to increase same-store sales and profitability, ensuring operational efficiencies, and also improving consistency on delivering a great product to our customers.”

As the company prepares for massive expansion throughout the Southeast into Alabama and Texas within the next two years—Slim+Husky’s will open locations in Memphis, Birmingham, Houston, Dallas and Austin by the end of 2020—its owners knew it was the right time to invest in an executive with the experience to ensure long term lasting success.

“When we decided to make (Marshall) our CEO, it was an important time for us. Slim+Husky’s is going through a developmental stage—we’re young but we’re growing very fast,” Gray said. “We feel lucky to have grown to where we are now, but we know that it was important to start putting the right people in place and build our infrastructure in place to grow even more.”

“(Marshall) has so much experience in retail and management for corporations like Shoney’s and Sam’s Club,” he added. “She brings a host of knowledge to our organization. She’s going to keep us focused as well as marry her expertise to our vision.”

Nashville-based childhood friends Derrick Moore, Emmanuel Reed and Clinton Gray III have opened the West Midtown Atlanta location of Slim+Husky’s Pizza Beeria, their first location outside of Tennessee. (Reginald Duncan / The Atlanta Voice)

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