According to Leigh Ann Livaditis, who is part of day-to-day operations with husband Jimbo, they had been struggling to keep the restaurant afloat when the buyer approached them.
“I don’t think it was feasible for us to sustain the business there with the challenges we have faced for a while,” she said, citing labor shortages as well as continued loitering issues that deterred patronage.
Zesto celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2019. The closure brings the family-owned Zesto locations to two: East Atlanta and Forest Park. A franchisee operates a third location in Tyrone.
Their Little Five Points location closed in May 2021 after a tree fell on the building. By year’s end, the Livaditis’ announced it would not be reopening.
Jimbo Livaditis said that selling the property on Piedmont Road was an especially hard decision because of his family’s roots in that neighborhood. For a time, the family lived in an apartment near the intersection of Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive, the original site of the Zesto on Piedmont that opened in 1971.
“We were probably one of the longest continuous businesses on Piedmont. I am on Piedmont every freaking day. It’s my street,” said an emotional Livaditis. “It pains me. We like to think we fought the hard fight.”
Zesto was founded by Jimbo’s father, John Livaditis. It started in Atlanta in 1949 as a walk-up ice cream stand on Peachtree Road, across the street from Brookwood Station in Buckhead. But its roots in the region date back a year earlier, when Livaditis was hired by the Taylor Freezer Corp., manufacturer of the Zest-O-Mat soft-serve ice cream machine, to oversee the opening of 30 Zesto units when the company decided that it wanted to expand its subsidiary ice cream shops into the Southeast.
Livaditis traveled from his native Illinois to Columbia, South Carolina, where he opened his first Zesto franchise in the region in 1948. The one in Atlanta followed a year later, and Livaditis ended up moving here for good. By the time Taylor Freezer abandoned the Zesto concept, Livaditis had bought the franchise here and began growing his business.
At its height in the mid-1980s, there were 10 Zesto locations in metro Atlanta. And Zesto buildings have long been associated with retro architecture that has earned it multiple awards and cameo appearances in films, TV shows and commercials.
When Livaditis retired in 1988, Jimbo and his older brother, Lee, took over the business. Leigh Ann Livaditis joined her husband full-time in 2016 to handle marketing and publicity.
The couple does not have special events or promotions planned for the restaurant’s final days of service. “We’re sad we can’t do this Piedmont location the justice it deserves with the fanfare, but we are spread very thin,” said Leigh Ann Livaditis. “It will be a quieter closing but we still expect a lot of goodbye visits — and hope we have enough ice cream to serve everyone!”
Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter
Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.