Owen had an idea. He suggested hosting original music groups on those evenings. No cover charges, just a casual atmosphere with cold beer, food and an atmosphere where aspiring local artists could jam. The owners agreed, and so he began to book some of his musician friends to play.
With Owen’s plan in place, Trackside Tavern became a launching pad for the careers of some of the most promising names on the local circuit and, eventually, the national music scene. Names like The Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins, and Kristian Bush.
But there was something missing. The rowdy crowds were becoming more engaged by the bar scene, not the music. The music, lyrics, and energy of the musicians were getting lost in shuffle.
So Owen began dreaming of a “listening room,” a place where music was the focus, where, as he says, “The song could be lived with the artist, and folks listened.” In those days, there were no listening rooms, as Owen envisioned, in Atlanta. The only place like it was Atlanta Symphony Hall.
And so began the journey of Eddie Owen – entrepreneur.
“You can go anywhere and do anything, but it’s about the inspiration for the decision that truly matters.”
In 1992, Owen opened Eddie’s Attic, an intimate, casual venue where music was the main attraction. Located on North McDonough Street in downtown Decatur, where Owen was living and working at the time, the venue was not in the safest part of town. In fact, along with the Attic, only three places stayed open in the square after dark. “Those first few years were extremely hard,” he recalls.
But before long, Eddie’s Attic became known around the Atlanta area, eventually expanding into a brand that drew aspiring artists from all over the country. Having heard about the “Attic,” one young guitarist came to Atlanta after his first year at Berkeley. He played open mic-nights every chance he got and worked the door on booked evenings. He quickly became Owen’s go-to when a fill-in was needed, soaking up all the knowledge he could. As Owen recalls, his talent stuck out like “a sore thumb.”
Today, the young guitarist, John Mayer, plays on stages all over the world.
Mayer is just one of the talents whose roots took hold in the Attic. Artists such as Corey Jones, Jennifer Nettles and Kristen Hall, who later connected with Nettles to form Sugarland, are but a few of the names that have played on Eddie’s stage. But for every one of these celeb stories, Owen insists there are a thousand more of artists who’ve experienced their dream because of his business. “Whether the names are well-known or not, those stories pop the buttons right off my vest.”
The seasons change
In 2002, after 10 years of success, Owen sold the business to Jennifer Nettle’s ex-husband, Todd Van Sickle, and decided to pursue some other endeavors. He didn’t stay away long. In 2005, Van Sickle sold Eddie’s to Bob Ephlin, who brought Owen back to book the talent.
Starting a business, selling it, and then coming back are all part of Owen’s entrepreneurial story. But perhaps what’s even more remarkable is his attitude. “There’s really no starting over,” he says. “There’s just continuous transition to the next phase.”
Can you ever really go home again? Eddie Owen says yes. “You can go anywhere and do anything, but it’s about the inspiration for the decision that truly matters.” In his years at the Attic, Owen booked new artists, mentored new staff, and continued to make it the place to be in the Atlanta music scene.
“Potential entrepreneurs need to have the vision to see what will be, not focus just on what is.”
As with all great entrepreneurial stories, change would came again for Owen, when, a few years later, he left his namesake Attic to pursue a life-long dream – Eddie Owen Presents. The club is located at the Red Clay Music Foundry (RCMF) in Duluth, Ga. The 260-seat venue and music school offers private lessons and music workshops as well as a place for musicians to play.
It’s the “magical sweet spot,” as Eddie calls it, an environment that allows for an uninterrupted connection between the artist and the listener – the place where his early dream of a listening room can truly come to life.
Owen sees the potential for RCMF to become bigger than his name, his brand, and even the location. He believes Duluth is the best environment for that very reason. “It’s full of far-sighted residents, elected officials and city staff. Potential entrepreneurs need to have the vision to see what will be, not focus just on what is.”
The City of Duluth, which currently is undergoing a lot of development, is quickly becoming one of the most sought after addresses in Georgia for both residents and businesses. Boasting a clean and safe environment, it offers more pedestrian-friendly activities.
Never give up
As he works every day with tenacious artists, Owen says the greatest lesson he’s learned is to “never give up.”
So many of the musicians he has seen over the years have been just as good and just as hard-working as the ones who are household names, but they don’t get the recognition. It takes grit, thick-skin, and an entrepreneurial mind.
Owen believes every artist is an entrepreneur, and the ones who don’t work at it, don’t last. “Don’t give up.” That’s the advice he gives to all aspiring entrepreneurs, “Don’t repeat stupid business decisions. Listen, really listen. And be a person folks want to be around.” It also helps to have a support system. Owen insists that without the support of his wife and three kids, he wouldn’t be where he is today. “If families aren’t in it together, an entrepreneur has no chance.”
“Don’t give up. Don’t repeat stupid business decisions. Listen, really listen. And be a person folks want to be around.”
Owen has truly followed his own advice, and yet, with all his success, he still hasn’t felt like he’s made it. “I don’t think that, even now. It’s all about today, making it a bit better than yesterday, building on the wins and learning from the losses.”
The resounding message through the Eddie Owen’s story is perseverance and sincerity. His one big secret to running a good business is to make every customer, employee, artist and vendor – anyone who enters the business – leave thinking, “Dang, those are the nicest folks I’ve ever met.”
As he looks across the stage of his newly found music venue, Owen is quick to remember the advice that he trusts the most, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”