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By: JENNY CORBETT
The teasers have been on social media; the sign is out that says ‘Coming Soon’; and the community was treated to a sneak peek the weekend of Dec. 18. On February 5, the long awaited opening of the Alexandria Bakery will happen at its new location in the former Gaither’s Family Resources.
Andy DiRuzza, grandson of founders, Mac and Jesse McClung, will begin the continuation of his family’s legacy.
“This didn’t come overnight,” DiRuzza said, “we have been planning it for about ten years.”
The original bakery was founded in 1947 by Mr. and Mrs. John Smith on N. Canal Street. It moved to its infamous location at the corner of Harrison and Church Streets in 1949. In 1951 the McClung’s bought the business and established it as an Alexandria icon. A place where everyone would be in the mornings awaiting the freshly baked donuts, cookies, and caramel rolls.
In 1981 the McClung’s sold the business to their daughter, Phyllis and son-in-law, Mike DiRuzza. The DiRuzza’s ran and operated the business until closing it in August of 2001. After being closed for four years, the business was bought by Barney Maynard and Beth Woodruff. A few short years later, the business closed, for what many thought was for good.
DiRuzza, an Alexandria Fire fighter at the time, began the long process of reviving the bakery. As he made the decision and started planning, he realized he needed to get into the old bakery building, which has since been demolished, to see what, if anything useful was left. He said by accident one day, he ran into Sandy Maynard who gave him a key and access to the building. He was able to remove the original tables from the back where his grandfather and father previously rolled dough on.
DiRuzza’s wife, Nichole went on to explain that as time and planning went on, the location at Gaither’s opened up. She said when they contacted the Gaither’s about the space, there was nothing but support and excitement to allow DiRuzza to renovate the space and prepare to open the doors.
“They have been super excited about this with us,” she said.
DiRuzza said he learned the bakery business trade from his family. He began working at the bakery with his father while in high school; going in before his day began at 3 a.m. to make donuts. DiRuzza left the business while attending college, but returned to continue the legacy. He worked the early morning shift at the bakery while beginning his fire fighting career part time at AFD. While beginning to plan its reopening, DiRuzza discovered recipes handwritten by his grandfather and his father. “I even discovered some in my handwriting from those days,” he said.
Last fall, after 22 years of service, DiRuzza retired from AFD to pursue the dream. “AFD taught me that life is too short and you can’t waste time thinking about what to do,” he said.
After a couple of months of teasing the community about the opening of the bakery, the DiRuzza’s hosted ‘blast’ weekend just before the holidays.
The bakery was manned by familiar faces of friends who had worked for the family at its previous location. Nichole said, “The blast opening was so emotional, to think about the support of the community, our friends, and even people from out of town.” She went on to explain friends and other small business owners in Alexandria have provided support throughout the venture, including owners of The Curve, Terry and Tiffany Clegg. “She worked here when she was younger,” Nichole said. “They and so many others, have been a huge help. We have had a lot of great support from our friends.” Clegg was one of the familiar faces behind the counter during the ‘blast’ weekend.
In addition, previous owner, Barney Maynard, not only participated in the ‘blast’ but presented DiRuzza with the rolling pin used by DiRuzza’s grandfather and father. “It was emotional,” Nichole said.
DiRuzza closed after the ‘blast’ to continue preparing and fine tune the business for daily operations. In addition to offering the family recipe favorites, the bakery will offer specialty coffees with the help of barista, Sydney Parton, who has been instrumental in training the couple and staff with coffees, lattes, and more. The Alexandria Bakery will offer its infamous donuts, cookies, and caramel rolls, including the crowd favorite M&M cookies.
The Alexandria Bakery will be open Wednesday through Sundays from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Although there will not be table service, there will be indoor seating available. The business will be set up to accommodate gatherings including small meetings, bible studies, and more. DiRuzza said he will employ approximately six people in part time positions. He will also rely on his 15 year old son, Eli, who will begin his experience in the business coming in early in the morning before school to help make the donuts and more. Daughter, 13 year old Ella, will also help at the business making boxes, helping with day to day cleaning, and more.
Nichole will continue in her position as Office Manager at Picture Perfect where she has been since 1995. She will provide moral support during the week and will be a familiar face at the Bakery on the weekends.
The DiRuzza’s are grateful not only to the community for its support but to Bill and Gloria Gaither for everything they have provided from the space to the support. “Bill and Gloria has their first date at the Alexandria Bakery,” Nichole said.
“We are so excited about having the Alexandria Bakery again as part of our community and honored that the DiRuzza family chose to open their business on our campus. We hope “the bakery” will become a beautiful part of the new generation’s memories of home as it has been for all of us who grew up with this Alexandria institution,” Bill and Gloria Gaither said.
The Alexandria Bakery will open on Saturday, February 5 at 5:30 a.m. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at noon.