(Updated 4:45 p.m.) If everything goes to plan, husband and wife team Jeffrey Jr. and Kelly Yates may finally be able to open the pizza restaurant that’s been “opening soon” since early 2014.
The dream of Yates Pizza Palace started in 2014 when Jeffrey Yates Sr., owner of the Yates Car Wash and recent purchaser of Table Talk (1623 Duke Street), purchased the space on the 3000 block of Duke Street that had been local pizza and pasta institution Generous George’s.
Jeffrey Sr. worked to completely remodel the building, with Scott Long Construction adding large windows, a rooftop deck, and a new kitchen. When Jeff Jr. walks inside the building and sees the tasteful and detailed work done by his dad, a down-to-earth engineer with a passion for the city, he said it makes him feel proud of his father.
The goal was to offer the best New York-style pizza in the city. But when Jeff Jr. and Kelly visited before a planned move out to Oregon, Jeffrey Sr. admitted to his son that he was sick with cancer and asked if his son could help with some of the work that needed to be done on the restaurant.
Jeff Jr. and Kelly moved to Alexandria in 2017 and worked to help get the restaurant together. Jeff Jr. said his father was insistent on doing much of the work himself, once devising an improvised mechanism that allowed the two of them and a few friends to move four massive pizza ovens into place.
Kelly said they thought Jeffrey Sr. was going to get better, but he didn’t. Jeffrey Sr. died in 2018, leaving his local businesses in the hands of his son. Jeff Jr. said he never thought he was going to be part of the family business, but over the last year he and Kelly have worked with the managers and staff at Table Talk and Yates Car Wash to help get their bearings.
“It’s nice to have people to lean on,” Kelly said. “The businesses are all so different and some of the people have been there as long as Jeff’s been around.”
During that time, Jeff Jr. said he also learned to become more comfortable not just following in his father’s footsteps, but taking his own ideas and implementing them as well.
“I’m getting less timid about doing it the way dad did,” Jeff Jr. said. “I’m different. I’m more cautious.”
As Jeff Jr. and Kelly worked to take the wheel of the businesses following Jeffrey Sr.’s death, the current businesses took priority over work on Yates Pizza Palace. After getting a green light from the city earlier this year, however, Kelly said the pair is ready to take off and fire on all cylinders to get Yates Pizza Palace open.
“It would kill me for another summer to go by while the building is ready to go,” Jeff Jr. said.
Their hope is for Yates Pizza Palace to serve quality pizza and pasta, but also to be a gathering place for the local community the way Generous George’s was. Jeff Jr. also said the name “Yates Pizza Palace” may or may not stay.
The last big thing that Jeff Jr. and Kelly have on their todo list before the restaurant is ready to open is picking the right partners to work with in operating the restaurant, but there are already a few potential partners the pair have in mind.
“It’s finally time,” Jeff Jr. said, prompting a soft laugh from Kelly.
“It feels funny to finally hear that,” Kelly said.