During Thanksgiving 2005, Geoff and Katie Melkonian and Geoff’s sister Wendy were not sure what to do with the dozens of eggs left over from holiday cooking. After a few minutes, they had the answer — make pumpkin bread using Katie’s grandmother’s recipe. Wendy, who worked for the Souper Jenny restaurant at the time, sold the bread there and had a hit.
The Melkonians decided to open their own shop in their hometown of Sandy Springs. Breadwinner Café and Bakery has operated for over 10 years across the street from what is now the new City Springs civic center. Now Melkonian has two new restaurants, both named Farm to Ladle, located at Ponce City Market and Avalon in Alpharetta.
Geoff Melkonian has lived in Sandy Springs since 1984 and is a 1988 Riverwood International School graduate. He said his business is looking forward to City Springs fully opening later this year.
“We want to stay in Sandy Springs,” he says. “In our way, it’s an investment in the city. We believe in what they are doing.”
We asked Geoff to tell us more about how Breadwinner came to be here.
Q: How did you decide on the name Breadwinner?
A: I wish I had a clever answer. We wanted a positive-sounding name. It fit our personalities. Of course, within a year of starting Breadwinner, the “no carb” fad took off. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt us too much.
Q: Is there a long history in your family of running bakeries?
A: There is zero history of baking in our family other than our mothers and grandmothers baking for us at home. However, my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents owned and operated a deli/grocery store in Brooklyn for two generations. The photos [on Breadwinner’s walls] are from the Brooklyn store. My great-grandparents escaped Armenia and Turkey around 1914. They came to America and started a new life. In the early 1920s, they opened their store and lived in the apartment above.
Q: What is the process for making bread at the store in Sandy Springs? Early hours, lots of kneading?
A: Our breads are quick breads. No need for kneading. They are baked and packaged daily for sale and shipping for the next day. We still have a very active mail order business.
Q: Do you remember eating loaves of yummy bread as a child? What was it like for you and your sister growing up and being in the home kitchen?
A: Our mom made the best lemon blueberry bread, which is one of our flavors. Katie’s mom and grandmother made what is our pumpkin bread. It was the product that Breadwinner was created from. To this day, we still bake both of their recipes for these flavors.
Q: Are you willing to share the recipe for the pumpkin bread that apparently got this entire business started?
A: I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked for our pumpkin bread recipe.
Q: What was Katie’s grandmother like, whose recipe you followed for that first mass production of pumpkin bread?
A: Katie’s grandmother was a fiery and small but mighty woman from Tulsa. She was very Midwestern. She shot squirrels in her backyard with a BB gun. You didn’t cross her.
Q: What is your favorite bread you make? What bread did you try but was unsuccessful and had to be taken of the shelf?
A: My favorite bread changes with the seasons. In the warmer months it is “Be Still My Beating Tart” and lemon blueberry. But the rest of the year it’s a toss-up between “Papa Don’t Peach” and “Party At My Place Pumpkin.”
For a short while, we had a bread called “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli.” It was delicious. It’s not that it didn’t sell. We just could not get it to bake consistently. After a while we put it on the back burner and haven’t yet gone back to it. But it was so good. Maybe we will try it again this year.
Breadwinner Cafe and Bakery
220 Sandy Springs Circle
Sandy Springs 30328