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An employee gathers meals placed online for customers on Jan. 26, 2021. Maepole sits on Chase Street, a restaurant located in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Sophia Haynes, @sophiahaynes.jpg)

Athens native and restaurateur Peter Dale designed Maepole to solve a problem in his daily life: He was often in a hurry and needed to get a quick, healthy meal. Based on its success in Athens, he and his partners decided to open a second Maepole location in Atlanta.

“I love a burger and fries, but I can’t eat that every day,” Dale said.

Dale said Athens needed a convenient place where a customer could grab a healthy meal with vegetables. The meal should taste great and be at a fair price, he said. A fast-casual restaurant, Maepole lets diners select from a variety of “bases'' such as greens or quinoa, and proteins like pulled pork and tempeh. The menu items are all fresh, local and non-GMO.

The Atlanta location is under construction now in the Summerhill area, near the former Braves’ stadium, which is now the stadium for Georgia State University, Dale said. Construction should be completed this March.

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Mary Logan Bikoff, a University of Georgia alumna who splits her time between Atlanta and Athens, has been eating at Maepole for the last two years whenever she is in Athens, she said. Bikoff, a former senior editor with Atlanta magazine, currently has a home near the new Atlanta site of Maepole, she said.

The population surrounding the new location includes students and professors, and is near university housing for Georgia State, Bikoff said.

The Summerhill area is a “really vibrant district — it's diverse and walkable and bikeable,” Bikoff said, adding that in her view it’s a great neighborhood for Maepole because it’s “young and cool.”

Even before the pandemic, Maepole had a take-out option, online ordering and third-party delivery, Dale said. For dine-in customers, the staff delivered the orders in a disposable and compostable container. These practices made it easier to adapt to COVID-19 than some other restaurants, Dale said.

Maepole also provides an area where customers with a pick-up order can dine outside.

Dale believes navigating the pandemic will make his businesses stronger. The management became nimble, he said.

“We’ve made big changes and big decisions really quickly,” Dale said.

In addition to preparing the food, he enjoys “taking care of people.” Dale said.

“I think it’s the hospitality part — that’s what excites me,” Dale said.