Stepping inside A+B Etc., you might do a double-take, as the space begins to capture your imagination and you feel as if you are in a trendy Paris boutique. As you look to the right, you will get a glimpse of the dining room with its pristine white walls and extended ceilings that showcase the intricate molding, which was specifically designed to replicate European architecture.
The inspiration for A + B Etc. comes from Walter and Susie Altman’s trips to France and their passion for European dining. Described as a “cultural escape,” A+B Etc. offers a retail and dining experience that is unique to South Georgia.
“We want people to feel like this is a destination,” Susie said, “as if they have been transported to a whole new world.”
The gift shop features an assortment of distinctive items from French soaps and gourmet jams and jellies to cashmere tops and Italian handcrafted jewelry.
“I want you to come to the shop and think, ‘Where did they find this?’ And not, ‘Oh, I just saw this at another boutique.’ Some of the companies we work with in France have never exported to the states before.
“We try to have things that you just won’t find anywhere else,” Susie said. “I am not going to buy anything for the shop unless I absolutely love it.”
While the original focus was a venue for private lunches, dinners, and afternoon tea parties, A+B Etc. has now moved toward serving lunch and dinners, based on reservations, on an alternating weekend schedule.
Chef Nichols Ekblaw and Executive Sous Chef Matthew Russ create a different pre-set menu for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and lunch on Saturday.
“Nick does a fabulous job,” Susie said. “What might be stressful for me, Nick and Matt are in the kitchen laughing and singing. This is their passion. They make it look easy.”
Providing an opportunity to move out of your comfort zone is the key to the uniqueness of the dining experience at A+B Etc.
“We want people to try new foods,” Susie said. “That is part of the experience.”
Described as a European dining experience, guests are not rushed through their meals, and each visit features new menu selections.
“When you make a reservation, then it is your table all night,” Walter said. “We want your meal to be an experience. Our focus is the culinary, wine list, and service.”
With the success of A+B Etc., Walter and Susie have already embarked on a new business venture. Located down the street, the Altmans purchased a 1911 building for their next Hahira project. Though the three-story building has not been named, the plans include a bakery and café, retail space, and high-end accommodations for overnight guests.
“It’s a big space with 4,400 square feet per floor,” Walter said. “In our mind, the bakery will be more than bread and pastries. It will be a traditional bakery, but we want to add homemade ice cream and sorbet, specialty cheeses and yogurts, and even do some chocolates and coffee blends.”
Demolition has already begun, and the final look will have a New York loft feel with exposed brick and steel frame details.
“The food and retail will be on the first floor, and on the second there will be four luxury hotel suites,” Walter said. “This is for people who come play golf, shoot quail, and all the things we do in South Georgia. There won’t be anything like it from Atlanta to Orlando.
“It will go hand-in-hand with what we are doing here A+B Etc. We will develop retail businesses and put them in the space and continue to do what we are doing now.”
Though the Altmans are not Hahira natives—both grew up in nearby Valdosta—they have come to enjoy the small town and are excited to be part of its continued growth.
“With the new train depot and the festivals continuing to grow, Hahira is attracting more people,” Walter said. “When the new interchange off I-75 is complete, will see even more opportunities in Hahira.”