Atlanta

Tony and Christina DeVictor with son Leo outside on the porch outside Fellows Cafe. Photo courtesy of Fellows Cafe

InterviewsAtlanta

Why Fellows Cafe Is Exactly Where You Want to Be On a Saturday Morning

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In a small yellow house, tucked away on a quiet street in historic Roswell, sits Fellows Cafe. Each seat inside the global-inspired breakfast and lunch restaurant offers an interesting and unexpected vantage, whether you’re sitting at a corner table under the antique-style candelabras, next to the window alongside houseplants angling for sunlight, or at the counter watching the baristas craft the best-selling — and only seasonally available — lavender latte.  

It’s quaint, odd, hip, inviting, and charming all at once — and somehow without being cliché.  

The service is always attentive, friendly, and never hurried. It’s the kind of place you want to be on a Saturday morning, spending time with friends and sipping coffee. The catch is, so does everybody else.  

Because outside, they wait. Throngs of people line up on the weekends, waiting more than two hours for a coveted table inside or on the expansive patio.  

Fellows is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team and Roswell natives, Tony and Christina DeVictor. Tony is a former film set designer (and self-taught baker!) and Christina is a destination wedding photographer with years of experience in the restaurant business. Together, they bring people in from all over metro Atlanta for Fellows’ homemade bagel sandwiches, sourdough cinnamon rolls, breakfast salads, ricotta hotcakes, cocktails and coffee.  

In March, Fellows opened weekend reservations, now accepting reservations seven days a week. And despite a bumpy first weekend with the new policy, Fellows accommodated every customer, moving customers with patio reservations inside due to a cold weather snap. 

We spoke to Christina just after launching daily reservations to learn more about how Fellows keeps its staff morale high, its menu fresh and how inspiration and kindness play a central role in the business operations. We also got a sneak peek into the DeVictors’ latest project coming later this year, an indoor coffee shop, bread and clothing market, affectionately called “The ‘Well.”  

Sweet-potato eggs Benedict. Photo courtesy of Fellows Cafe
Christina and Leo take a selfie. Photo courtesy of Fellows Cafe.

Resy: You and Tony are from Roswell. Tell me about why you opened Fellows and what you’re striving for here.  

Christina DeVictor: I feel like it’s so rare not only to come back [to where you’re from] but also to want to open a business here. Roswell needed Fellows and I knew it; I’m an opportunity person and I saw a problem that needed to be solved. I’m sold on what we offer here and what I really want is people to have three things at Fellows: rest, rejuvenation and inspiration.  

You can’t really force someone to have inspiration, but you hope for that. But we know we can offer people rest and rejuvenation. And up until reservations, we never rushed anybody out, so I was very fearful that we were going to have to push people out [when we launched weekend reservations.] But what actually started happening is we realized that having reservations can allow us to meet that goal even better.  

We focus on staying sharp with what’s happening in other cities, other states. All my travels as a destination photographer were to gather inspiration; I have a story for every choice we made in here.  I also stay very active in the culinary community and what’s coming. This sounds weird but I’m not worried about what the customer wants from an ideation standpoint because I’m always looking for what they don’t even know they need. Once I notice everyone’s doing a trend, I’m like “Oh, we’ve got to change.” 

 

You’ve also achieved a balance of being cool without being pretentious or intimidating, with everything from the food to the staff. How? 

Since opening, we’ve had this circle diagram that has experience, food, and drink. And it shows that experience is tops. Basically, the customer experience can trump every error we have with food or anything that goes wrong. And it’s everything from how customers are greeted to how we handle a mistake to how the customer feels. The other day someone told me their soup was cold and I literally said, “I am so sorry. That’s terrible news.” We really encourage our team to know that they should respond like human beings.  

 

Tell us about the design: In addition to being delicious, everything from the food to the décor is beautiful. Fellows is very Instagrammable.  

I love that Fellows isn’t what everyone else is, especially from an aesthetic standpoint. Some people would come here and use words like “rustic” or “cute.” And maybe we don’t fit in with discerning designers, but we made choices for everything. Like these [small, round picture frames hanging on the wall] or these candelabras — these aren’t really Instagram-worthy because Instagram loves trends and everything to be the same. But we wanted everything to be beautiful because we want people to take photos. What we offer is something different — little visual surprises everywhere.  

 

Your staff is always so kind and accommodating, even under pressure and long wait times. How do you manage and maintain that kind of environment?  

Christina: It goes into the hiring process. Everyone who comes to work here has to align with our core values, which are daily positivity, kindness and no negative talk. You have to be able to reset your positivity daily, knowing that as soon as you get grim and negative, you’re on your way out at Fellows Cafe. Of course, sometimes there are things we can do to improve job satisfaction like a raise or a move to different position in the café, but we ask our staff to reset their positivity each day. We also ask everyone to be kind. And we have a no negative talk policy on the staff, so not only are they not allowed to talk amongst each other about negative issues or each other but they also can’t talk about the table. We can’t have that moment where somebody walks in with the Starbucks cup and they’re all talking about the Starbucks cup. We just don’t do that. We let people go quickly once we realize there’s negativity and sometimes that’s difficult. We want people to grow here but if you have a natural disposition to talking poorly about others, it’s not going to change overnight — and we are too busy to handle that.  

 

How has that approach been affected with the staffing shortages over the last couple of years?  

Obviously it’s been difficult, but even more recently it’s been incredibly difficult because we had to make a couple of sacrifices. We weren’t able to hire the right people and we wouldn’t hire the wrong fit and it got to the point where our team was exhausted.  

So our word for this year is rest. We don’t allow anyone to work more than five days, and that’s kind of in response to how we had to push them for several months during the crisis.  

Speaking of a meal, what would you tell someone to order for their first time here?  

Always try one of our seasonal lattes because they’re so fun and they always change — and people are obsessed. We just launched the lavender latte but the pistachio rose latte has been so good this season. Everyone’s tastes are so unique so you really just kind of have to explore. Our top sellers are hands-down The Usual, then the sweet potato eggs benedict, and the breakfast burrito we just launched crushed it. I don’t know if we’re going to keep it on the menu but people liked it. If you love salad, I’d say hit the breakfast salad — it’s next level. But we always tell our staff to evaluate someone’s vibe [when they ask for a recommendation] because if someone is a granola every day person, maybe don’t offer them the Fellows Board. Customize the experience to the customer.  

 

What’s your go-to meal? 

Breakfast salad and a cookie. We do real cookies. Like really good. This one we’re eating is almond butter chocolate chip with sea salt.  

The latte. Photo courtesy of Fellows Cafe.
The Fellows Board. Photo courtesy of Fellows Cafe.

What’s happening next door? (The DeVictors are renovating the building next to Fellows Cafe)  

I’m going to give you just a couple of words and they’re going to shock your mind for the aesthetics. Think Japanese coffee shop, rustic cottage, natual wood, plant life. What’s it going to be exactly? It’s called “The ‘Well” (spelling and branding not-yet finalized), which is obviously a huge nod to anyone that went to Roswell High School. We’re not even going to open until probably August or September, but it will be an indoor market with a coffee shop and Green Street Bread, which is our new location where all our bread will be produced. It’s going to be all local coffee, too. There will be vintage children’s clothing on one side, plenty of green space and it’s going to be an event space. It’s going to be very focused on families, too, which is a major need in Roswell — a place to bring your strollers and kids, grab a coffee, let your kids run around. It’s a ton of space, too. People will be shocked because it’s like three times the size of the Fellows property. 

What’s next for Fellows?  

I just want people to come in, be inspired and feel closer to people they’re with because of how amazing their experience is. I’ve been traveling for the past ten years and I always say that now I’m traveling through my experiences here, sharing stories and connecting with people — and we’re going to keep doing that. Like, during tomato season we’ve talked about grating fresh tomato into this paste-like texture and spreading it on toast with butter and salt. It’s insane — we had it in Spain and there’s a very specific presentation and it’s incredible. We want to bring those kinds of experiences to Fellows so people can experience what we did and we can all share that moment.  

Genuinely, this place is about facilitating a deep sense of connection and gratitude and enjoyment of food and drink and just having a meal with friends. It’s a place for friends, inspired by where we’ve been. That is our tagline, and we’re still living it out … we do not need to change our tagline.