By Wendy Binns

From the Shanghai Dumplings at Doc Cheys to Fettucine Gorgonzola at Osteria 832, there is one ingredient that the local restaurant group, HomeGrown Restaurants, always includes: giving back.

Owner Rich Chey explains that this is part of his business philosophy. “We manage our restaurants by the laws of karma – what goes around comes around. My team has always viewed the restaurants as a means to accomplish more than just feeding our guests. We have a vehicle with which we can support the causes we strongly believe in. My partners invest their time in the many causes we support not because it is their job or they are looking for something in return, but because it is the right thing to do and it provides them with a sense of pride in themselves and the company.”

Chey’s restaurants have long-supported area schools because “what is better than knowing that our efforts area helping better educate the kids in our neighborhood.”

And, he says that the Virginia Highland Firehouse is one of their favorite recipients of their charitable efforts. By hosting an event each year, ‘Breakfast with Santa,’ they have donated over $36,000 to-date to three local fire stations.

“Our firefighters risk their lives everyday on the job, yet they have to fight everyday for the basic necessities,” he says. “I would encourage anyone who lives in the neighborhood to visit the Fire Station 19 and introduce yourselves. You will not meet a more caring, humble bunch of guys than our neighborhood firefighters.”

The Cunard Memorial Playground on Virginia Avenue is a point of pride in the community for Chey. Lisa Cunard and her two children were tragically killed on North Highland Avenue when a tree fell and hit their car.

“This tragic event hit home with everyone in the neighborhood because it was random and could have been anyone of us,” he says.

The community came together when he organized a dine-out to benefit the playground. “I was so touched … I think almost every restaurant on North Highland corridor participated in the dine-out. The restaurants were packed the night of the dine-out and there was an electricity in the neighborhood that night that I have never seen before and have not seen since. Brad Cunard [Lisa’s husband] made it a point to stop in every restaurant that evening to thank the owners for their participation. He also gave every owner a replica fire truck, which was the favorite toy of his deceased son. I still have that fire truck displayed in my office. I think we raised $20,000 that evening for the playground.”

“The outpouring of emotion and support that evening only reinforced what I already knew, that our neighborhood is truly unique and I feel privileged not only to live here, but to serve its residents every day.”

For more about HomeGrown Restaurants, visit

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.