By Katie Callahan (File photo)
It’s hard to miss the Yates family name around town. There’s Yates Corner, Yates Automotive, Yates Car Wash and now: Yates Pizzeria.
Jeff Yates, one of the family’s four brothers, is the owner of the forthcoming Duke Street pizzeria. Despite the family’s apparent business acumen, his relatives — and friends — urged him to stay out of the pizza industry, he said.
But he already had fallen in love with the property, which once was home to Generous George’s Positive Pizza & Pasta Place, a neighborhood staple.
“I like signature properties and this fit the requirements for me. It’s a signature property that’s not architecturally pleasing, but it’s a landmark property,” Yates said. “When it became available, I started thinking about it. And I love the idea of taking care of people and feeding them.”
Yates stressed he is not laying the foundation for a regional or national chain. Instead, he plans to take his acquisition “one step at a time.”
“We don’t have any global expansion plans,” Yates said. “So are we going to be doing three more businesses in the next three years? The answer is no. If everyone can win in the situation and we can produce a good product and happy customers, then maybe we’ll entertain some other venue. But this is our focal point and it probably will be for the next year.”
Yates chose the location because of its history. Known for the two massive toy soldiers posted out front, Generous George’s was a popular spot for pizza parties for more than three decades. It closed in 2009, mourned at the time as a victim of the recession.
If you ask Yates, Generous George’s might be gone, but warm and fuzzy memories remain. He already has received an outpouring of interest since the Yate’s Pizzeria signs went up on the building.
“It’s an icon. It’s a piece of history in Alexandria that everyone remembers and has a fond memory of,” Yates said. “A lot of people miss [Generous George’s] being there. I thought it would be very appropriate to have it reopen as a similar venue to what it was previously.”
The building on the 3000 block of Duke St. was bought by My Husband Cooks Hospitality, LLC owner Kendle Bryan in 2012. The plan was to turn the location into a Ginny’s and The Esquire Dog.
But Bryan’s concept never came to fruition and when the property ended up back on the market, Yates took note.
The new owner is interviewing chefs and talking with others in the restaurant community. Some of his interviewees were friends with the previous owner and helped him from time to time. The menu will take its cue from Generous George’s, offering pizza, pasta and sauces made from scratch.
Yates Pizzeria is tentatively scheduled to open by the end of the year, but its new owner is prepared to put in the extra work and time needed to do it right — including giving its pink exterior a makeover.