Stacey Eames has a lot on her plate these days. The Highland Bakery owner is planning to open a few new locations this year, and she's also working on a brand-new concept in Virginia-Highland's former Aurora Coffee space at 992 North Highland Avenue. Eames doesn't have a name for the project yet, but she hopes to be in business this fall. The local baker and restaurateur recently chatted with Eater Atlanta over the phone and shared the scoop on her plans.
What can we expect from the new concept?
It's going to be very coffee-centric, and I really wanted to create something that's going to appeal to a lot of different people. If you and I go out to lunch and you like something like our traditional cupcake, eat artisan bread, and don't have a problem with gluten, then that's great. You can get our stuff, similar to what we do here at Highland Bakery — some of our sandwiches, soups and salads, more traditional pastries, which are made right here at our [Highland Avenue] location. But if you're having lunch with someone who is gluten-free or paleo or maybe has some lighter food allergies, then you could dine with them, and there's something that will appeal to both of you.
So we're going to have some paleo, raw, gluten-free products — not only from a standpoint of our lunch items or breakfast items, but also our desserts and pastries, as well. We want to focus on local and organic — not to say that everything will be organic, but we do want to do that as much as we can. We'll have smoothies, juices, and elixirs, and I'm working with a couple of really talented people to design our menu, who have a lot of experience in alternative ingredients that are really good and healthy for your body. I just wanted to have a place for people who want to enhance and elevate where their nutrition is, but also have a firm footing on those items that we eat just because it makes us feel good and they're happy foods.
Why did you choose the former Aurora location?
That location — it's funny because I was starting my coffee business in Atlanta at the same time as when Aurora was starting. I hung out a lot at Aurora; I was really good friends with the original owners. They were definitely a resource for me, and we even had a business together down in Little Five Points. We had a little cafe down there, at 7 Stages Theater, that was a joint venture. So it's like this space is coming full circle for me. And the coffee component, knowing that it's really important to the neighborhood, that's definitely something that's going to be in the forefront, as well as the food.
Where are you sourcing your coffee and other ingredients?
I have had a long-standing relationship with Batdorf & Bronson, who even though they have [Dancing Goats coffeeshops in Decatur and Old Fourth Ward] and are very visible in the community, something that not a lot of people know is just how they were on the forefront of doing things the right way and sourcing out small plantation owners. They were actually leaders in the coffee movement, way back 20 years ago, even. They don't tout themselves enough in that arena. I'm proud to have been a coffee partner with them for a very long time. I was one of their first accounts in Atlanta.
Sourcing our food, I'm actually working with some small farmers, and the gentleman who is helping us with menu design has a connection to a small farm that I'm really excited about doing business with.
Who are these people you're working with?
I'm working with Cory Kilcoyne who is the chef at Raw Noble, which is a local raw-food dessert company. They sell mainly wholesale to Kroger, Whole Foods, and Earth Fare. He's an excellent raw-food chef — he goes out and forages for his herbs and foods, and he just knows a lot about food from a health perspective, how it's good for your body, and what pairs with what. And also we joined forces with Taria Camerino; she's doing a great job really pushing the envelop on some of our paleo stuff and some of our other dessert items that are going to be alternative and gluten-free.
What can patrons expect from the design of the space?
It's going to be very fresh, but also very comfortable and cozy in a really open type of way. I think that the space that was there before felt kind of closed in, so we've opened up the ceilings. I think that people are really going to be impressed by what our designer has brought to the table and been able to do with the space. One thing that I do want to mention is that the landlord has been really committed, and the building needed so much work. And Lynn Dewitt, who is the landlord, she has been very committed to making sure her building is right and correct and able to sustain, hopefully, the next 50 or so years. So it took a lot longer in the process to make sure that infrastructure was solid in the building.
What will the hours be?
Our initial idea is that of course we'll have [breakfast and lunch], but we would also like to capture that later dessert crowd, coffee-and-dessert crowd. One of my favorite places in Atlanta used to be The Dessert Place, which was kind of across the street from [Eames' new venture]. Not that we're going to have a set up like them, but I just loved how it became a meeting place for a date night or after dinner. So it would be nice to have a place to have a little family outing or a less-intimidating date place to go.
When do you hope to open?
Our goal right now is mid-September to October 1. I would say late September to early October.