Albemarle Sweet Shop rolls out plans for new location

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, January 6, 2022

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Having been around for more than a century, including about 60 years at its current location on King Avenue, the Albemarle Sweet Shop has rolled out a new plan.

Later this year, the business will move to a new building at 310 S. Second St., currently a vacant lot between the post office and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Construction should begin within the next few months, with the goal of moving into the new space by September.

Owner Shawn Oke had been planning a move for the past year but waited for a specific date to make it official to the public. Since the Stanly News-Herald published a story Jan. 6, 1922 about the near completion of the Albemarle Bakery on King Avenue, Oke thought it only fitting to make a similar announcement exactly 100 years later.

“Just like 100 years ago, our business has outgrown our current location and is in need of a location to improve production and better serve our customers,” the shop posted Thursday on its Facebook page, along with photographs of the 1922 article and the original Albemarle Bakery.

Ever since the Sweet Shop reopened in November 2020 following months of being closed, the business has been busier than even during pre-pandemic times. The Sweet Shop just completed its busiest holiday season on record, Oke said, producing about 1,400 pies in just two days during Thanksgiving.

“We’ve just got to the point where we just physically can’t keep up with the demand with the facility we’ve got,” he said, adding that with the growth the city is experiencing around the downtown area, “I just think it’s an opportune time to look at what we’re doing.”

Shawn Oke adds chocolate filling to one of his pies at the Albemarle Sweet Shop.

Oke currently rents the location on King Avenue, but he will own the new building, which will provide even more security and flexibility.

“For long-term sustainability, I think it’s the best move for the business,” he said.

While the new building will be less than 1,000 square feet bigger than the current one, it should be a much better use of space for the public.

“It’s better designed and more efficiently laid out than what we got,” he said.

The new space, for example, will have a larger lobby to provide more display case space and seating for customers.

He wants to focus more on shipping products to customers and that will be easier to do in the South Second Street space. Oke also has discussed the possibility of expanding locations, along with adding to the menu items like coffee drinks and ice cream.

Oke is excited about the potential of the new location. Since he first bought the space, “we have had to build the business around the building, but now we can build the building around the business,” he said.

With so much change on the horizon, one thing will certainly stay the same.

“Most importantly the products so many of you have grown to love will be made with the same ingredients, processes, equipment and care that have made them favorites of so many of you,” the shop posted.

A well documented history 

The Albemarle Sweet Shop likely has a history that few bakeries in the area can match. 

According to information given to Oke from historian Lewis Bramlett, the earliest known precursor to the current Sweet Shop was a bakery opened by G.W. Baker in 1905 on North Second Street. The building was owned by Noah Pennington, who took over the bakery in 1906. 

The Harris Bakery, operated by J.W. Harris, opened in 1912 and ran for several years before closing due to World War I. Ground was eventually broken for a new bakery building on King Avenue in 1921. It opened a year later. 

The business changed hands several times before the Whitley family purchased The Albemarle Bakery from Peter Endres in 1934. The bakery eventually moved to its current location at 128 King Ave. in 1960. Harold Bagwell later bought the shop in 1972, followed by Bud and Karen Haley in 1994, before Oke and his wife Laura took ownership in 2000.  

“It’s kind of like your family,” Oke said in a 2020 interview with the SNAP when describing the history of the shop. “The names have changed a little bit, but we’re all related.”

“It’s an honor,” he added about operating what is considered a legacy to so many in the county. “There’s so much there for the community that I need to make sure I protect and preserve.”

Working to preserve a legacy

Having been such a part of the fabric of the county for the past century, Oke said he is aware that changing locations might be unpopular to some.

“It’s weighed heavy on us because I know the historical nature of where we are,” he said. “Anytime you upset a business that’s been at a location for a long period, there’s a lot of questions…and I’m nervous about that.”

But it’s because of customer loyalty throughout the many decades that gives Oke confidence he can make such a big-time decision.

“I feel like the volume of business is strong enough that I’m comfortable making this huge leap,” he said.

While the location will be different, Oke hopes the same feelings of nostalgia and appreciation for history will remain the same.

The Sweet Shop is working with Charlotte-based architect Peadon Finein to “capture as much history as possible in the new building,” according to the Facebook post, noting the building design from 1922 “has been our model for designing our new building.” The old wooden flooring from the current building has also been removed with the plan to utilize it in the lobby of the new location, Oke said.

The business is also working with a company based in New York to rebuild and move the 1959 and 1954 ovens to the new location “so we can ensure our products continue to be baked in the ovens that have baked them for years.”

Oke told the architect that he wants to focus on creating a destination where the public can come to make memories as opposed to merely another business.

“I want the future generations to develop the memories in the new place that generations in the past have developed where we are now,” he said.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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