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Cary Sherman of Atlanta and Keith Grant of Fort Meyers, Fla., at Lagniappes in downtown Decatur. Shelly Ross, who owns the business, said the cafe is moving to Athens.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Cary Sherman of Atlanta and Keith Grant of Fort Meyers, Fla., at Lagniappes in downtown Decatur. Shelly Ross, who owns the business, said the cafe is moving to Athens.

leaving city

Owner to move downtown
Decatur business to Athens

By Catherine Godbey

The letter on the door began, "Dear Friends."

Those who stopped to read it grimaced, gasped and stared.

By the letter's end, the readers morphed from patrons of the popular Lagniappes, a coffee and sandwich café, to recipients of a "Dear John" letter.

In the letter, Shelly Ross, who owns Lagniappes with her husband, Rod Ross, informed customers of the café's plans to move to Athens from Decatur.

On Nov. 17, Lagniappes will serve its final cup of coffee from its East Moulton Street location.

In Athens, two days later, Lagniappes Express will open for business.

Lagniappes served its aromatic coffee and gourmet sandwiches to customers out of its downtown Decatur location for four years. With only a handful of eateries in the area, the café became a pillar of downtown lunchtime dining and developed a regular crowd.

"People have asked if I'm moving because of Starbucks (coming to Decatur), but no — business has been great and Decatur has been very supportive," Shelly Ross said. "Lagniappes will actually be closer to a Starbucks in Athens."

The relocation of Lagniappes follows the move of Giovanni's Italian Bistro, also owned by the couple, to Athens from Hartselle — a restaurant the owners initially wanted to establish in Decatur.

After two years of operating Lagniappes, the Rosses tried to find a site in downtown Decatur to open Giovanni's.

When discussions surrounding the old Decatur Utilities warehouse on First Avenue Northwest halted between Rod Ross and the city government, the owners eyed other locations.

In 2005, Giovanni's opened in Hartselle, but for only a year and a half. Laws prohibiting liquor sales and competition with lower-priced restaurants hurt business and resulted in the restaurant's move to Athens.

"Athens has been wonderful and very supportive," Shelly Ross said. "The square is always very busy, and we get the lunchtime crowd from the courthouse."

She hopes Giovanni's popularity will expand to the café, renamed Lagniappes Express and located in the bar section of Giovanni's.

"By moving Lagniappes to Athens, we can offer more variety to our customers at one location," she said. "Lagniappes will actually be inside Giovanni's at the bar area."

The relocation represents a return to the original vision of Lagniappes and Giovanni's.

"Our master plan was to have Giovanni's and Lagniappes in the same area," she explained. "Rod and I work better when we're closer together."

By combining Lagniappes' express lunches with Giovanni's made-from-scratch meals, she expects to attract a larger customer base.

For Decatur residents craving Lagniappes' sandwiches, Ross will continue her corporate catering business for minimum orders of $50.

"We're not abandoning Decatur. We will still cater to the plants and offices," she said. "I appreciate Decatur so much because without the city's support of Lagniappes, Giovanni's would have never happened."

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