Historic Richmond bakery has roots in Gloucester

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Apr 04, 2012 - 04:18 PM

It is 88 years old and still a thriving business in Richmond. Sally Bell’s Kitchen is perhaps the oldest continuing bakery in the city. Its story is almost a fairy tale.

Photo: Joyce Brown,from left, Vera Baker and Pat Morton are in the kitchen making sure there is plenty to serve. Below, Ann Crump, from left, Martha Jones and Margurite Moran are ready to serve their customers with a smile. Bottom right, magical confections, sweet potato, pumpkin, lemon and coconut tarts,  from Sally Bell’s Kitchen. Photos by Quinton Sheppard.

Joyce Brown,from left, Vera Baker and Pat Morton are in the kitchen making sure there is plenty to serve. Below, Ann Crump, from left, Martha Jones and Margurite Moran are ready to serve their customers with a smile. Bottom right, magical confections, sweet potato, pumpkin, lemon and coconut tarts, from Sally Bell’s Kitchen. Photos by Quinton Sheppard.

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One wonders if the two ladies, Elizabeth Lee Milton of Gloucester, and Sarah ("Sallie") Cabell Jones of Ashland, could ever have imagined when they began the business in 1924, then called the Sarah Lee Kitchen, that it would still be going in 2012. Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States that year, and E. Lee Trinkle was governor of Virginia.

Perhaps Mrs. Milton didn’t think much about the idea as she sold out after five years to Miss Jones in 1929 when she moved to New York. However, Miss Jones must have, because it was her wish that the business never leave the family. Today, the Jones family still operates Sally Bell’s Kitchen with Martha Jones as manager.

The two founding women, who were described as "two distinguished ladies," had become acquainted through the Woman’s Exchange (a place "to give gentle ladies of modest means an opportunity to earn much-needed money by accepting their handiwork and cooking on consignment") where Mrs. Milton sold her popular devil’s food cake and Miss Jones did the bookkeeping.

Following Mrs. Milton’s departure from the bakery, Miss Jones continued running the business as owner, manager and bookkeeper for 45 years at 701 West Grace Street, and at the new location, 708 West Grace Street, a move made in 1942 and where it thrives to this day.