Maintaining a reputation as one of the area’s best bakeries for 36 years is no small feat, but Apple Annie’s Bake Shop has done just that.
The bakery has a store on Kerr Avenue and another in The Forum on Military Cutoff Road.
Apple Annie’s history actually begins in New Jersey. There, Frank Longordo owned a bakery that was known as the best in town. When Longordo moved to Wilmington, he opened Apple Annie’s and set the same high standards for it as his New Jersey bakery.
When Rob Cooley took over ownership of Apple Annie’s in 2013, he simply expanded on the foundation Longordo had built.
“I knew we had tremendous people, a great product and the ability to package that and use it for continued growth,” Cooley said.
Cooley’s premise proved true. In the past eight years, Apple Annie’s has not only doubled its staff and revenue, but has also won annual awards.
From the beginning, Cooley was adamant that he would not change anything good. That meant keeping the bakery’s high standards for taste and quality using only the freshest ingredients in Apple Annie’s handmade products. Cooley also kept the bakery’s core products – breads, cakes, pies, cheesecakes, pastries and Danishes – as well as its time-honored recipes.
Some of the recipes used at Apple Annie’s have satisfied customers’ sweet tooths for decades, Cooley said.
Apple Annie’s custom-decorated cakes and wedding cakes are another of the bakery’s staples that have won acclaim.
“Our cake decorators are artists,” Cooley said. “They use flour, water, sugar and food coloring as their canvas.”
The creations of Hans Westermark, Annie Apple’s lead cake decorator, have gained a following through his TikTok videos.
Ideas for new baked goods come from a variety of sources, including employees who bring in family recipes, customer requests and trends that catch customers’ fancies. Then the proposed products are considered from several angles: taste, how easily the product can be made at scale, marketing the product and its presentation and packaging.
Apple Annie’s applies a similar quality control process to its wholesale arm, which constitutes about 25% of the business. The bakery supplies custom-designed goods, bread, desserts and pastries to some of the area’s best restaurants, Cooley said. However, Cooley adds that the bakery works only with businesses that have the same high standards as Apple Annie’s.
“We won’t sell to just anyone,” he said. “Only when we have confidence that they will take care of our products will we select a wholesale customer to partner with.”
In the past year, Cooley changed Apple Annie’s business model to meet the restrictions imposed by COVID. Managers modified procedures to protect employees, and Cooley added deliveries and curbside pickup to the bakeries’ services so he could supply both his individual and wholesale customers with baked goods. By doing so, he was able to keep his entire staff employed.
Now Cooley is adding e-commerce to Apple Annie’s offerings. For years, Apple Annie’s has, as a favor, shipped products to customers’ relatives and friends who live out of the area. By formalizing this aspect of the business, Apple Annie’s can take advantage of online sales opportunities and ship baked goods overseas as well as nationally.
To implement e-commerce, Cooley is expanding the Kerr Avenue bakery, designing shipping boxes, developing products that keep baked goods at the proper temperature, updating the website’s infrastructure and determining which products maintain their taste and freshness during shipping.
The expansion will also enable Apple Annie’s to store the ingredients it needs to continue baking, a necessity given the current shortages in basic supplies such as flour and sugar caused by supply chain disruptions.
Many of Apple Annie’s staff have been with the bakery for years, and they act as mentors to new employees. In addition, Cooley seeks input from all employees on ways to improve the bakery and resolve problems. Thus, there is continuous training and improvement for all staff, he said.
“Everyone is empowered to make a product right, and it is part of their job description,” Cooley said. “If a product doesn’t meet our quality standards, every employee can take it off the shelves. It is their responsibility to help ensure it doesn’t reach the customer.”
Apple Annie’s is also committed to being a good neighbor. To help meet this goal, the bakery began implementing sustainability measures about four years ago.
The bakery recycles all plastics and metals, and its containers and bags are made from biodegradable materials.
Products that are not sold within one or two days, (their shelf-life, as no artificial preservatives are used), are donated to local food banks. That comes to about $50,000 in baked goods that are given to food banks annually.
“We’re a big part of the community,” Cooley said, “and this is a way for us to give back.”