Leftie Lee’s bakery will open June 1; owner asks public for help with launchOwner and head chef Vivian Lee stands inside of Leftie Lee's at Olive and Pine in Avondale Estates. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Avondale Estates, GA — Leftie Lee’s, a Korean-influenced bakery and sandwich shop, announced in 2021 that it planned to open in spring 2022 at the Olive and Pine development in Avondale Estates.
But plans seldom survive their first brush with reality, and the bakery’s debut had to wait another year.
Owner and head chef Vivian Lee has kept busy with pop-up shops at Leaven Kitchen in Decatur and catering gigs. On May 9, she readied her space at Olive and Pine, which still looks like a work in progress. Workers were putting the finishing touches inside its grand hall, building the tables for the people buying food at Leftie Lee’s, Wonderful World Coffee and Tea House and Brisk, a soft-serve ice cream parlor offering grab-and-go options.
Lee said her plans to open took a back seat to the development of Olive and Pine. The developers had to get their permits before she could get hers.
“Now we’re a year later, and it’s finally happening,” Lee said.
The anticipated opening date is June 1. She’s currently hiring staff.
With labor issues common in the restaurant industry, Lee is hopeful customers will understand as she gets things up and running. She wants to create a great working environment at her restaurant.
“Work-life balance is really important to me,” Lee said. “I have a 4 ½ year old. I want this place to be a place where people land and just want to be here for a while. I love building a team, and yeah, I’m just hoping that people are understanding on that end.”
Leftie Lee’s will host a pop-up on May 13 at Olive and Pine, starting at noon until the food runs out. Olive and Pine is located at 6 Olive Street in Avondale Estates, across the street from Little Tree Art Studios and Little Cottage Brewery.
As far as getting the place open, Lee needs a little help. She launched a Go Fund Me to help with her expenses. Lee has raised about $5,000 of her $40,000 goal.
Lee said things have changed from when she first planned to open her bake shop.
“The dollar is not stretching half as far as it might have when I first started crunching numbers,” Lee said. “Just because of inflation, everything costs so much more.”
It’s a common story in the restaurant world. Manuel’s Tavern owner Brian Maloof recently wrote a heartfelt note to its long-time customers about price increases that would be appearing on the menu at the famous Atlanta restaurant.
“Unfortunately, starting next month, we will have to implement an across-the-board percentage price increase, along with updating our pricing equations. We will continue to monitor neighborhood prices to ensure we remain competitive while maintaining large portions, stiff drinks, free parking, and free event space,” Maloof wrote. “This letter is to inform our regular customers of these changes and the reasons behind them. It is not about padding our pockets but ensuring our future survival.”
Lee has weathered economic downturns before. During the first one, which began in 2008, she lost her landscape architect job and contemplated her next career move.
“I had fallen in love with baking at home,” Lee said. “I started off baking bread. … It got me really excited.”
She went to school at the French Culinary Institute, and her career took her all over the country, including stops in New York City, New Hampshire, and Boston.
“I did move around quite a bit,” Lee said. “I was trying to figure out where home was.”
She grew up near New York City, but it never felt like home to her.
Like so many Atlantans, she sort of wound up here but liked it enough to stick around. It was 2013, and Atlanta was on the verge of a revival.
“I moved here [in 2013] before the Beltline opened up, and I feel like I did get a chance to see Atlanta as it was, before the new Atlanta that now exists,” Lee said. “I loved that it was a large city with a small city feel because of all the different neighborhoods. I really just love that. You still have access to all the great things a major city can offer, but you can stay away from it, too, if you didn’t feel up to it.”
Lee hopes she’s up to the challenge of turning her vision into a thriving business. She’s working to craft a menu that appeals to people from all walks of life.
“I’m kind of messing around with the menu and cost things a little bit where there are some more affordable options so if someone did want to come here every morning, they could do so without hurting their wallet too badly,” Lee said. “It’s kind of balancing my cost of goods and understanding that a $20 breakfast is not ideal for most people. It’s not ideal for me.”
To learn more about Leftie Lee’s, visit the website by clicking here and visit the Instagram page by clicking here.
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