By Chris Schroder

The first time I ever stopped in Atkins Park restaurant on N. Highland Avenue was in the fall of 1994, when I was selling ads for a new publication called Atlanta INtown (then called Atlanta 30306). I sat down with Sandra Spoon, who assured me they would buy an ad in our new venture.

“Our owner, Warren Bruno, is very supportive of everything in the neighborhood,” she assured me. No truer words were ever spoken.

Not only did Warren support us generously through the years, he previously started the SummerFest event, which draws more than 50,000 people to support the residentially focused civic association. He also co-founded the neighborhood business associations in Virginia Highland and Buckhead, where he used to own Aunt Charley’s, a favorite bar of my friends back in the 1970s. He loved biking, flying planes and hot air balloons.

Warren was even more supportive of Sandra, his business partner whom he later asked to marry him, and Kevin Drawe, his business partner in the Smyrna location of Atkins Park.

Warren died last month after a courageous and inspirational battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He never let the diagnosis slow him down. He battled it with his characteristic drive and charm, raising money for medical research.

He served on school councils, on Atlanta’s license review board – he even ran for city council one time. He was a diehard Atlanta Falcons fan, organizing busloads of fans to local and away games. In the last few years, he scaled back, taking one of his sons to the game and to giant tailgate parties he helped organize.

He had amazing vision, proven one day when he walked into an abandoned cavernous basement space in White Provisions on the Westside. The landlord thought Warren was crazy, but he saw the opportunity to start an amazingly successful bar called Ormsby’s.

Our neighborhood, city and all of us who loved him dearly lost a wonderful friend when Warren took his final hot air balloon ride to heaven, where I’m sure he’s busy organizing his new neighborhood in a tailgate party I hope to join one day.

Chris Schroder was the founder of Atlanta INtown and now owns Schroder Public Relations.

Photo by John Fleming.

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.