Great American Restaurants
Great American Restaurants often abbreviated GAR, is a company that owns and operates restaurants in Maryland and Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County.
Norton and Farley had originally owned and operated Picco's Passion, a pizza parlor in the City of Fairfax in 1974, and while the pair concentrated on cooking pizza, they brought in Ranney to cook the books.
In 1978, they opened a second Fritzbe's, Fantastic Fritzbe's Good Time Emporium, in the Fairfax Circle Shopping Center in Fairfax City. A third Fritzbe's opened in Reston's Hunters Woods Village Center in 1980. In its first foray outside Northern Virginia, a fourth Fritzbe's opened in Rockville, Maryland in 1981.
In 1985 the Fritzbe's in Fairfax was rebranded as Artie's. The group continued their move away from the Fritzbe's brand with the opening of Carlyle Grand Cafe at the Village at Shirlington shopping center in Arlington in 1986 and Mike's "American" Grill in Springfield in 1987.
The rebranding of the Fairfax Fritzbe's as Artie's, as well as the opening of Carlyle and Mike's were early signs of the company's shifting focus, moving away from the fun of Fritzbe's to position itself in a category it defined as "upper casual".
As part of this shift, Picco's was sold in 1993, and the Fritzbe's in Reston and Rockville were sold to their managers. By 1995, GAR had pared down to four restaurants, the Fritzbe's in Annandale, Artie's, Carlyle and Mike's. That same year, the Best Buns Bread Co. bakery opened next door to Carlyle.
Also in 1996, the first Sweetwater Tavern, a brewpub combining a southwestern-style restaurant with a microbrewery, opened in the Centre Ridge Marketplace in Centreville. Another Sweetwater would open in August 1997 in Falls Church, followed by a third in Sterling in 2001.
The first Coastal Flats, with a menu more reliant on seafood than GAR's other restaurants, opened in the Fairfax Corner mixed-use development in July 2004. A second Coastal Flats opened in the Tysons Corner Center in 2005.
Cheesecake Factory president and chief operating officer Peter D'Amelio joined GAR in 2007 as COO.
Jon Norton became the Chief Executive Officer of GAR in August 2010, succeeding his father Randy. At the same time, Chief Operating Officer Peter D’Amelio became president, succeeding Mike Ranney. The elder Norton and Ranney became co-chairmen of GAR.
Later in 2010, GAR opened Ozzie's Corner Italian in Fairfax Corner.
Following an absence of nearly 20 years, GAR returned to Maryland when they opened their third Coastal Flats restaurant in Gaithersburg's Downtown Crown development in 2014.
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- Great American Restaurants page on Facebook