The bakery won a bid from the city to set up shop in the newly built, white-columned brick concession stand and pedal-boat operation known as the Landing at Fountain Lake in Byrd Park.
It's a big step for the fabled hometown institution, which has been featured in The New York Times and GQ magazine but has stood pat in the 700 block of West Grace Street since it opened as Sarah Lee Kitchen in 1924.
Although Sally Bell's has rarely advertised its diet-free smorgasbord of upside-down iced cupcakes, deviled eggs and old-fashioned sandwiches, the bakery has remained a very Richmond standby for decades — a recently organized Facebook page boasts almost 800 members.
Indeed, an expansion begs the question: Why hasn't this happened before?
“Resistance to change,” answers Sally Bell's manager, Scott Jones, whose great aunt, Sallie Cabell Jones, co-founded the bakery. Jones' wife, Martha Jones, is a co-owner along with her husband's two sisters and two brothers — tradition dictates that Sally Bell's be “a woman-owned business.”
“We've always been pretty stoic,” Scott Jones says. But “we felt like we needed to do something to grow a little bit, and this seemed to fit our reputation.”
The Jones family has owned and operated Sally Bell's since its beginning, and some longtime kitchen workers come from families that have worked there generations. Many employees are seniors, baking and assembling boxed lunches weekdays within a barely marked brick building on West Grace.
Sally Bell's at the Landing will offer those famous boxed lunches along with baked goods and some new products. The operation also will be responsible for managing the pedal boats.
“We haven't really offered anything new anytime in the past 30 years that I know of,” Jones says, but the concession stand will serve as a test market for additions to the menu while offering standard fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream.
Jones says he hopes Sally Bell's at the Landing will be open by Memorial Day — a few work permits are pending. Following start-up, the concession stand will be open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to park closing, through October.