A popular restaurant in Sandy Springs has morphed into a new venture that occupies a coveted space in Midtown Atlanta’s hip Ponce City Market.
Breadwinner Café & Bakery, which opened in 2010 in the Springs Landing shopping center, is the brainchild of Geoff Melkonian and his wife, Katie. Their new place, called Farm to Ladle, was the first eatery to launch when Ponce City Market opened last year.
“We were approached by them to bring the Breadwinner concept there, but part of their concept was they wanted everything to be original and first to market as far as the name goes. They wanted something else but with us doing it,” Melkonian said.
“We had to figure out what would work there. We came up with the name and then built up from the Breadwinner ideals of fresh food, locally sourced produce and meats, and fresh bread baked every morning,” he said.
The couple started out in the food business almost by accident with Melkonian’s sister, Wendy. “Before 2010 we baked pumpkin bread for Souper Jenny,” Melkonian said. “She was our first customer and helped us get started. We kind of did it more for fun: We had a lot of ingredients left over from Thanksgiving 2005 and baked a bunch of bread. All of a sudden, a business was born.”
By Christmas they had sold 600 loaves through that one outlet in Buckhead. The next year the AJT featured their expanding sweet-breads business.
“In 2009 we wanted to take it to the next level and have a retail presence. Ultimately, I wanted to have a restaurant,” Melkonian said. “My wife and I were inspired by trips we’d taken to Paris and New York. You go in and see these beautiful displays of sandwiches and salads, and we wanted to capitalize on the concept of the fast-casual cafe. We thought, ‘Let’s have a go at this.’ ”
Breadwinner picked up momentum and received a lot of media attention during its first year. It was later featured on Food Network’s “Road Tasted” show.
“That really put us on the map, not only locally, but nationally, and created a nice online store for our products. Breadwinner became not just a wholesale distributor to restaurants like Souper Jenny and MetroFresh, but became a corporate gift company like Harry & David,” Melkonian said.
Melkonian, a part-time musician who plays in an R.E.M. cover band, said the expansion with Farm to Ladle was a natural progression. “In Year 4 we wanted to do something else — build another location or create another concept or another brand. We weren’t quite sure what that was going to be, but we also weren’t in a hurry to do it, so we let things play out.”
Ponce City Market was being billed as the next Chelsea Market (in New York), according to Melkonian. “I think they delivered on that. The building is beautiful; the setting is great. It’s a true food hall. It’s not like the food court at Perimeter Mall. You can smell it; there’s a vibe when you walk through there. They’ve done a good job of attracting customers. There are tourists from out of town, … office tenants and residents in the buildings in the area. It’s a very pedestrian community. The BeltLine is right there, and dozens of condos around.”
Shaun Winters, Melkonian’s business partner, said Farm to Ladle now has a second location at Avalon in Alpharetta. “I do see it as having legs and resonating with a lot of people. The feedback we get from Facebook and Yelp is off the charts. There are people gravitating toward us because it’s fast, it’s fresh, it’s affordable. Avalon was void of this niche, and we could fill it.”