TJ Applebees, INC. (TJ Applebee's Edibles and Elixirs) created in Lawrenceville, Georgia 1980

Tja bldg

The original Applebee's was located on Memorial Drive right off I 285 in Decatur Ga. This building was an old "Judy's Hamburgers" building.  Judy's was sued by Wendy's  and they were put out of business.  There were many of these empty restaurant buildings left vacant during this time.  Our's was remodeled by Davis Design, Earl Davis and Bob McCurley, who became our partners and Founders of the company.  Our loan is shown below listing the Founders of Applebee's and their contributions to our first location.   We opened on November 19, 1980.  From 8 PM until 10 PM we offered free food and beverage to invited guests and anyone who walked in off the street.   At 10 PM we opened for business and remained open until 4 AM.  Some of our food purveyors gifted us with various menu items for our opening party as did some of our liquor and beer purveyors.  We opened our first store with only forty thousand dollars: an impossible feat in today's market.

Each one of our Applebee's locations had an original stained glass balloon mural created by Dana McCurley.  This one was made for our first location on Memorial Drive, Decatur, Ga.

Each one of our Applebee's locations had an original stained glass balloon mural created by Dana McCurley. This one was made for our first location on Memorial Drive, Decatur, Ga.

It was important that we make our place feel familiar, relaxed and stress free; a place for all ages as a meeting place or a hang out.  We worked hard to make our  TJ Applebee's Edibles and Elixirs another great Atlanta concept. Now known as just "Applebee's", its beginning was the joint effort (like it or not) of a husband and wife team (a Mom and Pop organization) to achieve the mutual goal of success in everything we attempted. We were both equally driven, at 30 and 31 years of age, to be successful with our restaurant concept. Few people know that the first Corporate office was located in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia: in our home.  We lived and breathed our company constantly.  To be successful you must sacrifice so much of your life, missing out on family life; things that you will never have a chance to experience again.  Only you can decide if it's worth it all and just accept the consequences of your decisions.  Looking back, I wish I had continued to work for Delta Airlines and transferred out of Atlanta.  I met so many people that had already made their way in life.  So many temptations to share a carefree life with someone a little older, mature, loving and caring that I just let slip by came and went, remaining true to a high school romance.  I regret that I did miss out on the life of my parents and my son.  I regret that I spent so much time in 4 walls working with numbers seven days a week.  I can easily say it was not worth all the slavery and disappointments experienced in devoting myself to something that was like a McDonald's to me.  I wasn't allowed to feel that anything that I worked so hard for was any part mine.  I wasted the best years of my life helping to make something a success and it was all unappreciated.

 Welcome to the history of TJ Applebee's Edibles and Elixirs. Part one begins in July 1980 when I, TJ Palmer, incorporated the name "TJ Applebee's" until May 1983 when the concept was sold to W.R. Grace and Company. 


I am always asked what led to the Applebee's concept.

Before T J Applebee's in 1980, my partner (and husband at the time), Bill Palmer and I bought into a concept known as "Billy's". BILLY'S was a restaurant concept founded by Billy Watson, a colorful Atlantan. He was in the Atlanta news often which gave his restaurants a lot of publicity. Everyone knew of "BILLY'S" in Buckhead. This was supposed to be one of the most popular places to frequent in Atlanta.

Previously, Bill had been employed by Burger King as a Franchise District Manager. Burger King had decided that it was time for a transfer to either California or Miami. I refused to move. Obviously Bill didn't want to either. He became very disinterested in making money for a large corporation instead of himself.   He would come home and proclaim how much money he had made for the company and he was tired of no recognition.  He decided to resign.  The next thing I knew he came home driving the "Billy's" Van.  He was so excited and thought this was the grandest thing that he was given the privileged to do.

We decided to venture out on our own. We took out a home improvement loan for $20,000 from Nations Bank (known as C&S) and bought into this local restaurant.  Bill told the bank that we wanted to do an addition on the house in order to get the loan.  "Billy's" on Savoy Drive had the lowest sales of the three Billy's Restaurants. The owners, having recently purchased one location and leased the name "BILLY'S", agreed to sell fifty percent of this location. Bill put so much time and energy into improvements that within two months he had turned this location around to be the number one store of the three. He was so proud and I was proud of him. Needless to say, the owners wanted their now #1 location back. In a very unprofessional manner they reclaimed the restaurant and returned our money with a check that of course bounced.  (Three days later we were repaid in cash. I promptly repaid the bank.) They came in to the restaurant during Happy Hour and told him they were taking the restaurant back and the agreement was null.  They asked him to leave.  Legally, they couldn't do this but for some reason Bill let them have the location back.

Bill was very upset emotionally. He was devastated, crushed. As he broke down crying, I told him that we could very easily start our own restaurant: what ever he wanted to do I was all for it.  I believed that the name "Billy's" meant nothing. We could come up with our own name. We could make it work.  (Maybe at this point I was slightly nieve. I had no fear. I believed in Bill and myself. Failure never entered my mind because I had never known failure. As they say….What you don't know won't hurt you. I never doubted what Bill and I could accomplish together. We threw caution to the wind, as they say, and we took the risk.)  Even though crushed, that didn't keep him down.  That same afternoon he was out looking for a location.  Within 4 days he had found what would be the first location.

The Founders: While owning Billy's, Bill met with Bob McCurley and Earl Davis. These two owned a design company called Davis Designs. Their business supplied restaurant décor for Burger King and other fast food chains. Bill asked Bob and Earl to be partners with us in this restaurant venture. Their part would be to supply the decor for the first location. Bill also asked a friend of his and his wife to be partners. This was Frank and Wanda Wood. Here were the original six people who founded Applebee's: Bob McCurley, Earl Davis, Frank Wood, Wanda Wood, "TJ" Palmer, and "the last man standing", Bill Palmer.  (I call him this because he was the last of the original six to be involved with Applebee's.  He eventually sold the companies that we started, I believe, for many reasons.  One could be when Obama became President, it became very hard for small businesses to survive.  There was so much regulation thrown in the mix with Obamacare and more taxes, it was close to impossible to make money working for yourself.   Someone must have come along and made a great offer on the company as he went on to other ventures in business.)

Bob and Earl had their art department come up with the logo design and type set for the Concept.  Before this could be done though, I had to incorporate all with the Secretary of State and also have a lawyer register the trademark.  Thinking ahead, I had the logo registered Nationally because you never know what the future holds.

For financing on the first location, we went to the Small Business Association. We took out a loan for $50,000.00. For collateral,  We each put up personal property and one put up a personal guaranty.  (Document shown)


Loan Agreement and Collateral

Loan Agreement and Collateral




Check back for the rest of the story (11-1-2017)