Summerfest Tribute Ride: In Memory of Warren Bruno

SummerfestThere could be no better way to celebrate the man and avid cyclist who made Virginia-Highland Summerfest happen than with a celebratory ride through Atlanta’s favorite intown neighborhoods. That’s just what the staff of Atkins Park Restaurant & Bar and Ormsby’s is doing.

profile_warrenbruno122010.jpgIn fitting Warren Bruno style, the restaurants are hosting a bicycle ride during this year’s Summerfest. The ride starts at North Highland Park, at the corner of N. Highland and St. Charles Ave’s. The course continues to Little Five Points, through Old Fourth Ward and onto the BeltLine, into Piedmont Park and over to the Ansley Park Loop. The ride ends, of course, “at home” in Virginia-Highland just in time to enjoy the second day of the annual summer arts and music festival. Riders can take their choice of three loops – anywhere from 9.5 to 19 miles in total. To make sure the course is fun (and just a bit challenging) for all skill levels, the ride starts in waves according to ability, with plenty of markings to follow as well as ride leaders to help along the way.

As an owner of the flagship Atkins Park restaurant and now Ormsby’s, Warren Bruno was one of the founders of Virginia-Highland’s Summerfest. This annual tribute was created to honor and celebrate the man who never missed a chance to bring family, friends and community together – or the chance to enjoy the city by way of bike.

warren_bruno_sidewalk_spray_265hTo participate, riders must be registered with a number. To do so, register online. Fees are $5 for children and $20 for adults. Donations to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are welcomed in honor of Bruno, and go directly to the Georgia Chain Gang team fundraising efforts. Founded by Bruno, the Georgia Chain Gang team rides in his honor to raise awareness for blood cancer research. Riders are also encouraged to bring their own water bottles, as refills along with food will be provided along the route.

Number pick-up and sign-in for the ride begins at 6:45 AM and the ride starts at 8 AM on Sunday, June 8. To register as a rider, visit the Warren Bruno Summerfest Celebration Ride website or visit the Facebook event page for more information. And, of course, get ready for the perfect celebration of Summerfest, community and the life of Warren Bruno!


Warren Bruno Memorial Bike Ride

The VHCA joins in those supporting the first annual Warren Bruno Memorial Ride to honor the legacy of a man who enriched the lives of so many in our community.

As the owner of flagship VaHi restaurant Atkins Park, Warren was one of the founders of Summerfest, and there’s no way we’d be having a 30th anniversary festival without his incredible support through the years. Warren was also an avid cyclist, so this tribute is fitting for a man who never missed a chance to bring family, friends and community together.

The ride will take place the morning of Sunday June 2 and start at the New Highland Park (corner of N. Highland Ave. & St. Charles Pl., across the street and just south of Atkins Park). Riders should sign in at 6:45 AM, the ride will start at 8 AM.

Registration is required. Register at When registering, donations may be made to the Leukemia Lymphoma Association in Warren Bruno’s name.

Ride on, Warren!


News (and movies) from VHCA Annual Meeting and 40th Anniversary Celebration

The Board of Directors for the 2012 (October) through 2013 (September) period has been elected.

Minutes of the meeting are forthcoming; however you can watch videos of the meeting, including the many special events such as:

  • SPARK choir performing (watch video)
  • Joe Drolet‘s educational address about the formation of the VHCA to fight construction of an interstate highway through our neighborhood (watch video)
  • Addresses by Pat Gardner, Ceasar Mitchell and Alex Wan (watch video)
  • Remembrance of Warren Bruno and and address by his wife Sandra (watch video)
  • Recognition of former and exiting Board members (watch video)
  • Discussion and voting on amendments to the VHCA by-laws (watch video)
  • Grants to community organizations (watch video)

See a slideshow of the achievements of VHCA and its volunteers below. You can also download it as a PDF file.

Finally, here is the new history video which premiered at the meeting, based upon the book Images of America: Virginia-Highland by Karri Hobson-Pape and Lola Carlisle. It was first shown at the 40th anniversary celebration (2012 annual meeting) of the VHCA. You can watch it full-screen by clicking the square icon in the bottom right of the video.


A Neighbor Like Warren Bruno…

By Lola Carlisle –
with support from Karri Hobson-Pape, Jack White and Judy Potter

When I first met Warren Bruno in 2001, I was young (sort of) and full of myself. I think Warren recognized a potential future neighborhood advocate and wanted to bring me into the fold. We worked on a project together for a Morningside Elementary School Auction that did not go the way I wanted, and I was a bit annoyed… at Warren. What did Warren do? Took me out to lunch at Atkins Park Restaurant, never told me I was full of myself, and showed me what real patience and leadership look like.

A decade later I appreciate even more what a person like Warren Bruno offers a community. He loved life – and he made sure that those around him had the opportunity to do the same. He was confident and positive which made him great at envisioning, launching and supporting not just his successful businesses, but also community events and groups – Summerfest (now the Virginia-Highland Business Association’s biggest fundraiser), the VH Business Association and several professional restaurant organizations, cycling groups, charity events, hot air balloon groups – and I understand this list goes on. I can only imagine the sort of trouble and fun he might be starting on his next adventure.

In the midst of all this energy lived a real goof. I remember watching him and the rest of “The Morningside Dads” up for auction at one of the many fundraisers at Morningside. They just made up this list of crazy tasks that a group of local dads would do and auctioned themselves off. The list of activities sounded more like chaos to the fifth power, but you know, I wanted to bid on it. Those guys were fun, and I’d clean up the mess in their wake any day just for the adventure.

When Karri Hobson-Pape and I talked to Warren about his experiences in Virginia-Highland and at Atkins Park Restaurant for our neighborhood history, he produced a bunch of stories prefaced by instructions to “put our pencils down.” His passion for Virginia-Highland was obvious. His parents moved to Atlanta from upstate NY in 1969, when Warren was in college. He spent some time in Atlanta working at a club on Luckie Street and on road crews until, as I understand it, he was drafted for the Vietnam War and was based in Korea. After his discharge and finishing college in RI, he returned here, with the goal of opening a bar. He bought Aunt Charlie’s in Buckhead, changed the concept a bit, and created a very successful restaurant. Warren owned several restaurants in Buckhead, but in ’83 he bought Atkins Park Restaurant, and that’s where our good luck began.

Warren was able to tell us a bit of the history of Atkins Park Restaurant, which was actually built as a home in 1910. In 1922, the owners (the Cohens, per Warren’s recollection) lifted the house up and built a bar on the new first floor; they lived upstairs and ran the deli and store below. Atkins Park Restaurant holds the longest continuously operating liquor license in Atlanta. From many accounts, it appears that Atkins Park Restaurant had a questionable reputation at times – so much so that some parents insisted their children cross to the other side of the street when walking down North Highland. In the 50’s, Atkins Park Restaurant and Manuel’s Tavern were the #1 and 2 draft accounts in the city. In the 60’s, the alley behind Atkins Park Restaurant was backed up in the mornings with winos and workers – painters were common – buying pints of liquor, which they’d drink right away and then toss the glass bottles in the alley. The owner had so much trash from that morning business that he had to make special arrangements for its disposal. When Warren bought Atkins Park Restaurant, the guy next door was a part-time bootlegger, selling moonshine. The previous owner of Atkins Park Restaurant had done a great deal to improve the look of the restaurant – stripping all the wood down and staining it – but the clientele had not improved to match the look. He recalls that there was a de facto segregation between the liquor drinkers at one end of the bar and the winos at the opposite end. When we spoke to Warren in early 2011, he was very content with the progress in the area and optimistic about development plans for Ponce de Leon. He believed that he and fellow business owners in that commercial node could work together to continue to enhance the community.

Warren talked a little about the area back in ’85 when he bought Atkins Park Restaurant. He inherited some very interesting customers. One was Nass Almeleh, a Jewish merchant born in 1885 in Greece. Nass moved to Atlanta in 1928 and operated Nass Shoe and Repair near Atkins Park Restaurant for 55 years. He lived on Rosedale and walked to work every day. He spoke very little English. He would eat lunch at Atkins Park Restaurant every day but it was his own lunch he brought in – in an old rusty lunch pail. He even brought his own glass and had one Budweiser every day, which he paid 25 cents for. No matter how much Warren wanted to charge for a glass of Budweiser, Nass Almeleh paid 25 cents. Warren also rattled off names of the eclectic mix of businesses in the area, Walter Mitty’s, the Blue Note, the Texas Oil Drilling Company, Alfred’s Furniture Refinishing, and RJ’s Wine Bar (where I got engaged), Bill Hallman and more. It was an interesting and vibrant area.

The central focus of his life was Sandra Spoon and his family. Sandra started working at Atkins Park Restaurant in 1985; she had come down for the summer between undergraduate school and whatever would come next. She worked at nearly every position in the restaurant, married Warren, became an integral part in the success of Atkins Park Restaurant and a great supporter of Virginia-Highland as well. She and Warren have two children together that have grown up in Virginia-Highland – Alec Bruno and Grayton Bruno. And Warren has two children from his first marriage – Christopher Derek Bruno and Madison Bruno. It’s a close-knit and special family.

Given what I’ve read and heard from others about Warren, I know that I only know a very small bit about him. On May 15, 2012, we lost a great soul and a great leader. But Warren has certainly left us with so much – fine memories, a sterling example of how to live a good life, lessons on how to be a positive part of a community, what a loving father and husband look like – and how to measure out a good enough 5K with a bag of flower, an old pick-up truck, a few beers, and good friends!


Warren Bruno – in memoriam

The passing of Warren Bruno on 5/16/12 is a major loss for the entire community.

Memorial Mass 5/23

There was a Memorial Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and a reception at Ormsby’s in honor of Warren.

Donations can be made in his memory to either of the following organizations:


Here are some articles which shed light on the enormous contributions Warren made to the Virginia-Highland community: