Above: Zesto has been an Atlanta institution for the last 70 years.
By Annie Kinnett Nichols
One of Atlanta’s true icons, Zesto has been serving signature treats like the Nut Brown Crown (soft serve ice cream dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in dry roasted peanuts), Arctic Swirl cones, milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits, chili dogs and the Chubby Decker, Atlanta’s first ever double cheeseburger, for 70 years.
In 1949, Big John Livaditis opened the first Zesto franchise in Atlanta on Peachtree Road across from the Brookwood train station and it was instantly popular. Big John, born in Illinois to Greek parents, sponsored other Greek immigrants to come to the United States to work with him and opened more Zesto locations.
Big John hired friends and family to work at the stores and made sure his employees got to know the customers. That’s still true today. The employees at the five Zesto locations know your name, and your kids’ names and they know what your favorites are.
Each store has its own personality and special menu items. The Piedmont Road and Tyrone stores serve tacos and quesadillas, the Forest Park store is the only one that serves breakfast and East Atlanta has fish and chips as well as fried chicken livers and gizzards. Along with the burgers and hotdogs, all locations offer awesome Greek gyros and lemon pepper chicken wings.
Family and friends
The family atmosphere at Zesto also means that they have longtime employees who have become mainstays and icons themselves. Jimmy Koulouris and his wife Angela at the East Atlanta store, Delores Slaughter at the Piedmont store and Mechelle Harper at the Little Five Points location have all been with Zesto for decades. They have some great stories to tell, too.
Slaughter recalled who Mayor Maynard Jackson came into the Ponce store to get his favorite milkshake and they told him the water main was down in the area. Jackson made one phone call and the repair was made while he waited to buy his milkshake. Rap star Lil Yachty was a regular at the East Atlanta store while working on the film “How High,” which used Zesto as a filming location.
Big John, who also created Big John’s Christmas Trees, died in 1995 and his son and daughter-in-law, Jimbo and Leigh Ann, now run the family business. They are both delightful and upon meeting them I wanted to work for them, too!
My advice to you is to find the nearest Zesto and you’ve never been there, go in and introduce yourself. You’ll be family in no time!
For more information, visit zestoatlanta.com.