“It’s weird, sometimes you just know if something’s right.” That’s how Tim Laxton describes the feeling he got when he first drove by 5411 Lakeside Avenue and spotted a “for rent” sign hanging in the cozy storefront that he would eventually occupy. The business he launched from the location six months later, which he named Early Bird Biscuit Company & Bakery, is now home to long lines and loyal patrons from far beyond his Northside corridor.
“It’s amazing. I had no idea people would go nuts over biscuits like they have,” says Laxton, who admits that since opening in July the business has grown far beyond what he envisioned as a “sleepy little breakfast spot.”
While Early Bird’s following may have formed instantly, Laxton’s approach has deep, traditional roots—his biscuits are a variation on his grandmother’s recipe and the rolling pin that he uses on a daily basis was handcrafted by his great grandmother.
“What I’ve tried to do is offer a basic approach to good old food that maybe you don’t see anymore,” explains Laxton, when asked about his range of breakfast and lunch dishes that span the savory-sweet spectrum. “I have a lot of young customers, but I also have just as many older people who come in, and it really resonates with them, because it’s something they knew when they were growing up that sort of disappeared.”
Doing that tradition justice means using the best butter and Virginia-milled flour. “I really have to go, pardon my French, around my elbow to get to my rear end to get some of the stuff that I get,” says Laxton.
In addition to fine local ingredients, Laxton credits his employees for helping grow Early Bird’s story. “They’ll send me text messages at night, like ‘Hey I just thought of a new biscuit idea.’ I love that. People are so involved that their minds are going there even when they’re not working.”
It’s hard to contain all that enthusiasm, says Laxton, and Early Bird’s customers have become part of the storyline. “Serendipitously, everything I’ve needed throughout this process has been laid in my path.” Inspiration for the Cheerwine cakelets that frequent the store’s dessert case, for example, came when a patron brought in a bottle of the Southern soda. Laxton also points out that one of his first customers now manages the shop’s social media marketing. “Megan [Heath] found me. This is a place—and I hope it always is this way—where people want to work. To them it feels fun, like something they want to be a part of.”
And though a one-in, one-out line is sometimes needed; the positive energy at Early Bird hasn’t waned. “People are super-patient. … I’m fortunate because I’ve not encountered an angry person since I’ve had this business. People walk through this door and they’re happy suddenly.”
That sense of warmth is no accident. “When [customers] come in, we give them eye contact, immediate attention, and something to drink. That’s what I like when I visit someone at their home.”
Whether it’s the buttery baked goods or a return to traditional Southern hospitality, something very right is clearly happening in Lakeside. And with Early Bird’s offerings expanding to include soups, boxed lunches, and a signature Blanchard’s Coffee blend, fans will have even more reasons to smile when it’s their turn to enter.