With his purchase of the building next door to his restaurant, Yellow Dog Eats owner Fish Morgan is working on a new concept to join the Gotha community.
Morgan has owned and operated Yellow Dog Eats for more than 20 years now, and he said he’s dreamed for a long time of bringing “something fantastic and fun to this space.”
That space, 1288 Hempel Ave., is the former home of Salon of the Lakes. Morgan said his friend, James Crapps, owned and worked out of the building for 31 years.
“I think we had a discussion years ago: ‘Hey, James, whenever you decide to retire, let me know … and if I’m still here, maybe — if I could if I make it through all the crap I’ve made it through — think about buying it,” Morgan said.
As a business owner, he has faced many challenges over the years. First, it was Sept. 11. Then there were multiple hurricanes, the Great Recession and four fires. One of those forced him to close for nine months in 2008. Of course, the most recent challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic. Morgan said he’s lost about 70% of his income in the past year.
However, it was also within the last year that Crapps came to Morgan and said he was going to retire. The building was up for sale.
“It was a tough time to want to purchase something in the middle of COVID, but it really, I think, gives me an opportunity to stretch out a little bit,” Morgan said. “James and I, we became very dear friends over the years … and I told him the other day I miss him being here, I miss his presence. He has a larger-than-life presence. I think he’s excited. He was happy for me to see what the next chapter’s going to bring. He was happy to see me get the building, so that was nice. … It was a challenge to pull it off financially, but we were able to pull it off.”
“We’re gonna keep it simple but really good — keeping it Yellow Dog funky, keeping it fun.” — Fish Morgan
At the end of January, Morgan posted on the Yellow Dog Eats Facebook page alerting customers that he bought the former salon building. Rather than announce a predetermined concept, though, Morgan wanted to hear from community members: What did they want to see next door?
“Everybody’s been clamoring to know what I want to do with it,” he said. “I’ve always asked everybody’s opinion, because I’ve gotten to know everybody on such a one-on-one basis, which is really nice. … If you don’t listen to your customer, you’re like every other restaurant that just opens up and does what you expect them to do.
“What we’re going to do is take all those ideas and we’re going to run with a lot of them,” he said. “Some people wanted a stage, some wanted a beer garden, some people said wine. A lot of the feedback was, ‘Hey, I want to see you guys do some breakfast.’ … I’m still gathering information, listening to what the customers want.”
Although the concept isn’t fully realized at this point, Morgan said the expansion definitely will include breakfast and coffee. He’s bringing back certified master pastry chef Lauren Cook, with whom he has worked in the past, to create delicious breakfast goods.
“Most of it will be to-go or a fast-casual thing, and we’ll do some coffee, breakfast and slowly but surely kind of expand our repertoire,” he said. “We’re gonna keep it simple but really good — keeping it Yellow Dog funky, keeping it fun.”
Morgan added he is grateful for the community’s continued support and excitement for his newest endeavor. People can share their ideas with him through social media or if in person if they see him around the restaurant.
“I’m very thankful to the community for keeping me alive,” he said. “I’m a small business who’s been very lucky to make it through a lot of these hardships, and I’m excited to see the next chapter for ‘The Dog.’”