By 2004, the Smyrna-based deli and bakery chain had tripled in size, to 164 shops spanning much of the nation.
Since then, however, Atlanta Bread has been in retreat. More than half its stores have closed, leaving 74 in 20 states.
Likewise, half of the 66 U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loans made to Atlanta Bread franchisees since 2001 have failed, according to a 2011 study by Blue MauMau, an online publication that tracks the franchise industry. The loans totaled $32.8 million, with the federal government losing $5 million.