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

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 for copying their concept and they were put out of business.  That left many of these vacant restaurant buildings on the market due to this legal action.  The location we selected was remodeled by Davis Design owned by 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.

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; I just let them slip by…. came and went,only to remain 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.  Money changes people. My partner became an arrogant, selfish, silent room mate.  He became jealous of many of the Franchisees that made our company grow world wide.  He could play the game well and no one would ever know the unkind things said about others except me.  He became a person I didn't know: Not the person I feel in love with.  I filed for Divorce in 1998.  I had the same Lawyer for 7 years in advance because I knew the day would come.

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" up until May 1983 when the concept was sold to W.R. Grace and Company. 


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

Before T J Applebee's in 1980, my partner (and husband at the time), Bill Palmer and I bought into a Bar 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 his time to be transferred to either California or Miami. I refused to move away from Atlanta. 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 complained so much that I finally told him I didn't think he had the balls to quit!) He finally did decide 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.

After much thought, 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. (Yes he actually lied to the bank)

"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 to us. 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. After all the work done to make this location a success, 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.) This was their approach: They came to the restaurant during Happy Hour and told him they were taking the restaurant back. They declared the agreement null and void.  They asked him to leave.  Legally, they couldn't do this but for some reason Bill let them have the location back. He didn't even try to fight to keep what we paid them for the ownership.

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: whatever he wanted to do I was all for it.  I explained I believed that the name "Billy's" meant nothing: why did he put so much emphasis on it? We could come up with our own name. We could find our own location and make it work.  Maybe at this point, I was slightly naive. I had no fear of doing what I had just suggested. I believed in "us".  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 we could accomplish together. We were both hard workers and I knew I would do whatever it took to make our venture work. We threw caution to the wind, as they say, and we took the risk.   Even though he was crushed and hurt emotionally, that didn't keep him down.  He got himself together and we went out on a search for another location.  Within 4 days we had found what would be the first location on Memorial Drive.

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 reserve a name with the Georgia Secretary of State, incorporate the name, and open bank accounts.  There were a few names that I tried.  Bill liked the name Appleby's but I knew there was already an Appleby's at a local Mall.   I asked the State if I changed the spelling of the name would that be possible to register? They agreed.  Bill also wanted to add "TJ" in front of Applebee's.  (I don't know why because at the first store opening someone said that it was nice to name the place after your wife.  He replied, "No I just pulled it out of a hat.") The new company would be called "TJ APPLEBEE'S".  I added Edibles and Elixirs because I wanted something different: not the same ole grill and bar adjectives. So I typed out the Articles of Incorporation and sent it off in the mail. I also wrote the guidelines for the management of our new company and how many shares and votes each partner would receive.  As I was having our menu printed up and working on the cover, the owner of the print shop told me her brother was an Attorney, right across the street from where I was.  At that point, I decided to have the logo registered.  Bob and Earl had come up with the type set for the name and I had the menu cover made up.  I took them both with me to the Attorney's office and had them registered with the State as trademarks. Thinking ahead, I had the logo registered Nationally also because you never know what the future might hold. It took about seven months to have the National Registration approved.  This was the only time I used the services of an Attorney when organizing the company.

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 Bill put up a personal guaranty.  How this was possible I will never know because he owned nothing to use as collateral.  Absolutely nothing!   (Document shown)

I used the property that was given to me by my Mother.  It was the last acre given to my family 6 generations ago when they arrived from Ireland in the mid 1700's.  A family of four: the husband and two sons were allotted 1500 acres- 500 for each male in the County of Gwinnett which was Cherokee Indian territory.  By using my property, I risked my heritage as Bill risked nothing.

Loan Agreement and Collateral

NOTE:  After we were ousted from Billy's (after Bill turned it in to a profitable location)  I suggested that we open our own place.  I told him that he had enough contacts through Burger King that if successful, we could sell locations as a franchise.  He said he wasn't a Corporate guy and he had no interest in that.  Regardless, I told him my idea of having an old drugstore them with a wooden Indian at the door.  I could find barber poles and drugstore signs from the antique stores in Chamblee, Ga.  I could even frame pictures of the famous stars and Braves baseball players.  I mentioned hanging “things” around the bar and he said NO.  “Things… just collect dust so we aren't doing that."  That changed.  I suggested booths instead of the individual uncomforatble small chairs.  He stamped a “NO” on that too.  Years later, he thought the booths would be a much better idea, too.  We were a team.  I could always “suggest” and eventually he would agree.  We usually agreed on everything.  It was like we knew what each one of us was thinking before we said it.  Everything was working out great together until….. Until he became a “Corporate Guy”.  From the start, my job became Accounts payable, all bank accounts and deposits, Employee relations (Payroll, insurance, uniforms) and in my spare time: shopping for, buying and installing decor until we opened our 10th location.  I had no life.