Come into Rocky Mountain Pizza on a Sunday in the Fall, and one may soon be surrounded by green.
As the home of Philadelphia Eagles fans in the city, the restaurant is engulfed in jerseys reading “Wentz”, “Cox” and “Dawkins”. Hurried servers and bartenders shift back and forth between patrons, getting food and drinks to customers before each drive.
But in the midst of all that green, you might see a Bears hat, worn by assistant general manager Chris Murray. He’s used to the sea of green, and he’s appreciative of most everything else that goes on at Rocky.
“I’ve had chances to work for other places, but I’ve turned them all down,” Murray said. “I’ve stayed with this restaurant and this company because I love all the people who work here. I believe in this restaurant and I believe in what they do.”
Murray was the first person general manager Mike Holley hired after he took over at Rocky seven years ago. Before that, Murray had worked at Sublime Donuts and as a bouncer for a club in Smyrna.
Despite limited managerial experience, Murray understood the vision Holley had for the company and worked hand in hand with him to create it.
“We knew we wanted to turn this place around, in both identity and sales,” Murray said. “And though actually managing the restaurant and holding people accountable, we have steered the ship in the place it is headed now.”
But while Holley greets customers with the often positive and energetic style, Murray often goes for a different path with his employees. A devout believer in ‘tough love’, he’s not afraid to let a new server know what they might be doing wrong.
Murray may enjoy joking with some workers, but his managerial style all comes from a place of caring. He says once he can build a level of trust with his employees, his generosity begins to come into play.
“I feel like a lot of stuff is handed to kids these days, and when some kids come in here they might not be ready for a real world job,” Murray said. “And when they leave college and they move on to their career, there is no more coddling going on.”
The two different styles of Holley and Murray have led to a few disagreements over the years, but both agree the contrasts actually balance the restaurant.
One of Murray’s many roles is control of the bar, including communication with alcohol reps, training servers into being barbacks and bartenders, and creating and crafting every cocktail of the month.
It’s a role he grew into, as Murray only had a few barback jobs while living in Orlando before joining Rocky. In fact, he credits his time at Sublime the most to his ability to make cocktails.
“I learned a lot about flavors and about pairing flavors, and back then I didn’t know if I was ever going to use that knowledge,” Murray said. “But what I learned there translated over to my bartending skills, particularly when pairing cocktails.”
Outside of Rocky, Murray works as an offensive line coach for Sutton Middle School. He has always had a passion for getting back into the game since high school, and in his first year coaching the team went from zero wins to making the playoffs.
Murray also spends his time volunteering at the Atlanta Humane Society, a center near Rocky that works to find rescue dogs and cats a new home. Murray owns two dogs himself, including a rescue from the society.
The restaurant has put on multiple events for the restaurant featuring charity shots.
“I’m just always gonna have a love for animals, they are helpless creatures. So what the Humane Society does is something I can get behind.”
But most of all, Murray works for a close circle of friends and family around him, beginning with his brother and niece. Whether it’s a family member, an employee he’s known for years or someone he knows through the industry, he’s made bonds throughout the city.
Whether it’s working in a sea of green or training a new employee with his patented tough love style, Murray is always doing it for that circle.
“All the stuff I’ve acquired over the years, signed memorabilia and such, that’s for my niece. My 401k, my life insurance all goes to her,” Murray said. “But I try to do a little for everyone who works here. If you put in the time and effort to work here, I try to give you something back for that. Because I appreciate everyone who works here.”