Where did you get the idea for a cookie dough shop?

In 2018, my daughter wanted to go to New York for her 18th birthday. We had already done all the touristy stuff, so I was doing research about what we should do, and saw that there was a cookie dough cafe in Greenwich Village. We got off the subway, and it immediately reminded me of Athens! When we got to the cafe, it was literally one of those “lightning strike” moments where I was like, Why doesn’t Athens have this?

Wow! So how did it all get started from there?

I called my husband, Michael, and said “You might think I’m crazy, but there’s the cutest place here, and Athens needs it!” Not even 15 minutes later, he called me back. He said he had done some research on the business model, and it looked like it might just work– plus, the startup and overhead costs were low because stoves and ovens wouldn’t be needed. Then, just like that, he said, “Let’s do it!” Two days later, when we landed in Atlanta, he had already secured the lease!

That was fast! Have y’all been working here full-time ever since? 

We signed the lease in August, opened it in January, and I worked my full time teaching job through that May! Michael works for the company full-time now, and I took a break to focus on Alumni for a while, but I just started teaching again here in Athens. My heart is here at Alumni for sure, and I love it! But, we now have four other locations and are continuing to expand, and once we started having those big "five-year forecast" meetings, I realized, This isn’t really how my brain works. I wanted to go back to the classroom and see the kids again!

Y'all are Athens locals! Is that where the name came from?

Yes! We both graduated from UGA and still live here in Athens. Athens is such a special place, I don’t ever see us not having a home base here.

Grace Vigtel

Did you have any background in this industry before? What made you confident this idea would work?

The only restaurant experience I’ve had was when I was a hostess in Applebee’s in high school! But when it comes down to it, I truly believe that every single person has that “lightning strike” moment, and that many people are so scared to fail, they never try. In 2012, I had open heart surgery, and I was very close to not being here right now. When you go through something like that, it makes you realize that this is the only life we have. So, I took the leap, and especially once I had Michael’s support, I thought, What’s the worst that could happen?

What’s your vision for Alumni now?

We already have four franchise locations in Milton, East Cobb, Ackworth, and Augusta, but we’re definitely trying to keep growing. We’re now looking for more franchise owners to open more Alumni locations! Also, our wholesale has exploded– we’re in 17 states in over 150 locations. They’re mostly mom-and-pop shops, barbecue places, and anywhere that needs a sweet treat.

Grace Vigtel

I’ve seen y’all at lots of UGA events! How do y’all reach out to the community?

This has been something that’s been important to us since the beginning! We’re an approved vendor at UGA, and we are corporate sponsors for Extra Special People in Watkinsville. Really, we try to do whatever we can! For anyone that reaches out, we’ll try to do percentage nights and more.

You have so many delicious flavors! What’s it like coming up with new flavors and names?

I love coming up with new flavors– I literally dream about it! I’m always open to new ideas, too. One of our flavors now, the red velvet, is called Natty Dough! We sometimes do deals with the UGA football team, which is super fun. We also have monthly flavors, and they always go to benefit a local charity, such as Cure Childhood Cancer in the month of September.

Grace Vigtel

Where did your recipes come from? Did you have inspiration?

It definitely was a lot of trial and error! We came up with the recipes ourselves– we made a lot of mistakes and threw out a lot of cookie dough. We have five children, and they gave us their very, very, very honest opinions. My grandmother baked, and I remember being in the kitchen with her as a little girl! So, I don’t mind throwing things together, and I think that helped– I wasn’t afraid to try new things.

Last but not least, we have to know: what’s your favorite flavor here?

Cookies and cream! I just love Oreos– there’s nothing wrong with a classic!

Grace Vigtel