Theo’s Brother’s Bakery, located in a shopping center on Houze Road in Alpharetta, has been open for more than 24 years.
Although a recent renovation doubled the size of the space, which is part of the Sedgwick Restaurant Group, it still feels cozy, and the aromas from the bakery in back add to the allure.
Stepping inside, you’re greeted by the ding of a doorbell, and friendly clerks guide you through the artistically arranged wealth of breads and pastries behind the counter.
The restaurant group began when co-owner Michele Sedgwick opened Van Gogh’s in Roswell in 1991, which soon was followed by a second restaurant, Vinny’s on Windward, in Alpharetta.
“At that point, we were buying from Buckhead Bread, and we thought we should be making our own bread,” Sedgwick said on a recent afternoon at Theo’s. “So, we found this little place, and, of course, it was named for Vincent Van Gogh’s brother.”
Because she loved the bread at Balthazar in New York City, Sedgwick ended up bringing in a couple of New York bakers.
“We started out baking bread for our restaurants, and we did some wholesale accounts,” she recalled. “Since then, we’ve developed a really amazing following. We have a prime spot at Alpharetta Farmers Market. That’s been instrumental in people finding us, and it’s grown our business tremendously.”
Nowadays, traditional French baguettes and country sourdough baguettes are available every day, along with many more offerings, including brioche, cheddar jalapeño ficelle, ciabatta and twist bread.
In addition, there’s a different “daily bread” offered Tuesdays through Saturdays, along with New England-style sourdough anadama bread, seeded Danish rye and Tuscan bread.
Whatever kind of bread you grab, Sedgwick recommends buying some Atlanta-made Banner Butter to go with it. “The unsalted is my favorite,” she said. “I just love it.”
In the pastry case, there always are three different kinds of meringues, such as salted caramel, pistachio and lavender, Sedgwick said.
Beyond that, you’ll find croissants, muffins, macaroons, double-chocolate walnut brownies, caramel nut bars and jumbo brown-butter chocolate chip cookies.
And, Sedgwick said, “Lemon bars are a staple. We switch out with seasonal cupcakes and galettes, individual seasonal coffee cakes or muffin loaves, and bread pudding made with house brioche.”
Sandwiches and prepared foods are another growing side of the business, with standouts such as a savory individual quiche; and ham, Gruyere and mustard croissants made from scratch.
“The lasagna, the meatballs and the pesto sell really well,” Sedgwick said. “We have our favorite tarragon chicken salad in containers, and in sandwiches. My chef from Vinny’s makes the soups, and they’re amazing. But whatever we have, we sell out of most days.”
From the beginning, Theo’s has relied on longtime friends and neighbors to keep the doors open.
“We stayed open during COVID, and I think people just really appreciated having some little smidge of reality in their life,” Sedgwick said. “They could get coffee and pastries, and we expanded our to-go offerings for them.
“We have a lot of European customers, because they recognize the quality of the bread. They’re French, Ukrainian, German, Russian, and we have a captive audience here for our prepared foods. When you build trust with people, they stick with you.”
Summing up Theo’s, Sedgwick allowed that running a bakery often was a pleasure, but not exactly a reward.
“This place has always been more of a labor of love, not a big moneymaker by any means,” she said. “It’s a tough business. Who wants to bake bread in the middle of the night?”
Theo’s Brother’s Bakery. 12280 Houze Road, Alpharetta.
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