Leading up to FPD’s Homecoming, we are featuring a few alumni who own local dining establishments. These would be great places to visit while in town. Our first of the series features Richie Jones (’96), Proprietor of downtown grill, Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen, and Circa, who is well-known in Macon’s fine dining arena.
What inspired you to open Downtown Grill, Piedmont, and later Circa?
I bought downtown grill as I was living on St Simons, and was looking to move into owning a restaurant. I’d seen and heard about the direction that downtown Macon was heading, so I thought that it would be a good fit. Piedmont was kind of a long time coming, as Brian [Whitley] and I had been talking about doing it since 2014, but in 2016 we met some other like-minded people and the dream became a reality. There wasn’t currently a brew pub in town and that we thought Macon needed one.
Circa came about after the previous owner was trying to sell all of his restaurants in order to move back to Italy. My partners and I looked at the numbers and thought that with some small changes that we could make this a very good dining spot.
What do you think about the way Downtown Macon is changing?
Since I’ve now been back in Macon over 10 years, I have been able to see drastic changes in downtown. When I moved back, it was at the beginning to middle of the recession. A lot of building funds dried up and this slowed progress, but once the Dannenberg project was completed people really gained confidence and started putting more money into the area. There are so many people who live in downtown lofts and love that they can walk to restaurants or a show at one of the downtown venues.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love a lot of aspects of my job. I really just like talking to people and getting to know them. I’m in the business of making people happy, and I strive to make that happen with each and every person who walks in the door.
Your favorite thing on the menus of each?
This is a tough one, and I get it all the time.
downtown grill – cowboy ribeye
Piedmont – wings
Circa – sushi
In relation to your days at FPD, what teachers/coaches/mentors stand out as having an impact on your life and how?
I feel that there were many teachers and coaches that helped me in my life. I wouldn’t have any math skills if it weren’t for Mrs. Hall. Mrs. Gunn taught me a lot about discipline and how to learn. Coach Farriba and Coach Looer helped in my overall life and spiritual walk.
Why do you think FPD is a great school community?
I think part of what makes FPD a great community is the size of the enrollment helps people to be able to have more one on one time with their teachers, parents, as well as the fellow classmates. I definitely created many life long friends at the day school and had many fun adventures.