The wait is just about over.
Though it was never really forgotten, the Gottlieb name re-entered Savannah's food lexicon a couple of years ago.
At first there were whispers. Developer Ben Carter had rolled into town and had big plans for downtown Savannah. Part of that plan was to re-introduce Savannah to two brothers whose family had made a name for themselves in this city.
Michael and Laurence Gottlieb were back. In what capacity exactly remained a mystery. But plans change, and while it won't be located downtown, the Gottlieb brothers have finally settled on the spot that will be the new Gottlieb's Bakery.
"We're excited about this spot," Michael tells me during a short tour of the 2,200-square-foot storefront they will occupy in midtown Savannah. "This location is accessible to everyone in the city."
The new home for Gottlieb's Bakery is in a shopping center at the northwest corner of Eisenhower Drive and Waters Avenue. A part of town that - much like other pockets of the city - is being buffed up and given a makeover.
"There is a lot going on in this area," Michael says.
He's right. When you think about it, the dynamic of this city is changing quite a bit. Not only downtown, but everywhere. It wasn't all that long ago that a big pink car dealership sat near the Truman Parkway at Victory Drive. Now, not only is Whole Foods leading the way there, but the shopping center across the street also got a huge makeover. Victory and Skidaway is dramatically different than it was a couple of years ago.
That trend also extends south. Sweet Potatoes has been an anchor in the area for years but now, BowTie Barbecue Co. and The Howlin' Hound have developed loyal followings. Just down the street at Mall Boulevard, Savannah Coffee Roasters is opening a tiny shop on Feb. 20.
Yes, the area is changing quite a bit. This move will do nothing but enhance the appeal of being located in midtown. Yes, the Gottliebs have that kind of following.
Getting to this point wasn't particularly easy, either. Once the Broughton Street arrangement fell through, Michael and Laurence turned their attention to what was next.
They could have left Savannah again. They've been successful wherever they've gone in their culinary careers, but they chose to stay. They landed at Wood's Kitchen in Bloomingdale, Laurence working the wholesale bakery and a tiny bit of retail and Michael turning out fantastic barbecue. All the while, they searched for the perfect spot to re-launch the bakery that would bring a bit of nostalgia back to coastal Georgia.
"We looked at maybe six, seven places," Laurence says of the close to two-year search for a home for Gottlieb's Bakery. "We liked a few of them, but they really weren't a perfect fit. This location works not only for us, but for the community."
It's obvious to them that giving the entire community easy access to the bakery is important. Sure, it's nice that Waters and Eisenhower is an extremely busy intersection in Savannah, but not everyone was going to drive all the way downtown for chocolate chewies. That drive is a little more sticky than it used to be, based only on how long it takes to get from Windsor Forest to downtown, for example.
It would have been a beautifully nostalgic and romantic story for the guys to open a little corner bakery in Savannah's Victorian District like it was back in the day, but from a practical standpoint, that just doesn't work anymore. Savannah is growing. Savannah has changed.
The good news is they've been baking and filling wholesale orders for a while now out of Wood's Kitchen. They have most of the equipment they need, a lot of it currently sitting in storage.
"Our goal is to be online and open April 1," Laurence says. There will be a tiny retail storefront with only a handful of seats. Less than 10. This is largely going to be a bakery designed to fill special orders and wholesale business. Yes, you will also be able to grab and go with a lot of your favorites when you are in the neighborhood.
Michael also says he wants to eventually have a tiny concept restaurant in the space, but that is way down the line. When I pressed him for a timetable on that, I got a raised eyebrow. First things first. This is going to be a bakery. Baking is science. Once they've perfected their formula later on this year, then I think they will start thinking about what they'd like to do restaurant-wise. In other words, no time soon. Far back burner.
It's been an interesting journey for the Gottlieb Brothers in re-establishing roots in their hometown. They grew up in Habersham Village. While there was a lot of excitement about their return to Savannah a couple of years ago, there appeared to be a lot more ideas than substance. Everyone wanted it to work somehow, but Michael and Laurence were the only ones making sure where they set up shop was a perfect fit.
Now they think they've found it. And in less than 60 days' time, Savannah will be grateful they did.
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