Originally created 01/19/99

Atlanta Bread Co. a big hit in Augusta



Surprisingly, Atlanta Bread Co. officials say, the top selling restaurant in the 47-store chain is not in Atlanta, the birthplace of the deli-style eatery as the name implies, but Augusta.

"It ended up surprising everybody," said Basil Couvaras, Atlanta Bread Co.'s vice president and chief operating officer. "Sometimes you just never know what will happen."

Augusta's Atlanta Bread Co. opened in November at the Augusta Exchange shopping center, close to Borders bookstore. It was the fourth restaurant -- after the Cooker Bar and Grille, Don Pablo's Mexican Kitchen and Chili's Grill & Bar -- to open there.

The 3,800 square-foot restaurant with hardwood floors and a fireplace, is taking in tens of thousands of dollars a week by offering soup, sandwiches, pastries and gourmet coffee, local franchise owner Charlie Baggs said.

Everyday, the eatery serves between 800 and 1,000 customers.

To prepare for the crowd, one employee spends about five hours getting the dough ready and another about nine hours baking it, Mr. Baggs said. They make about 500 rolls a day and empty eight trash bins a week.

The reason why the restaurant is doing so well, the owner said, is because its in a good location, the food quality is high and the bakery-concept is unusual.

"It's not like anything in Augusta," he said.

Atlanta Bread company has restaurants in 13 states -- although about 20 of them are in the Atlanta area. Thirty-five more stores are under construction or slated to open this year.

The sales figures even surprised Augusta Exchange developer Jim Timberlake.

"He's doing great," Mr. Timberlake said.

So far, all of the restaurant openings at the Augusta Exchange have been met with large crowds and long lines. There is room for as many as five more restaurants at the Augusta Exchange shopping center, he said.

Logan's Roadhouse, a steakhouse, is under construction.

And there are negotiations underway for a Tony Roma's rib restaurant, a soup and salad eatery, and one -- possibly two -- more restaurants, Mr. Timberlake said.

Frank Witsil can be reached at (706) 823-3352.