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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

On A Roll At The Jelly Cabinet

By Lynda Van Kuren, posted Apr 4, 2024
(Photo by Megan Deitz)
By all accounts, Phillip Jones III, owner of The Jelly Cabinet, is a magician in the kitchen. Customers swoon over his homemade cinnamon rolls and other baked treats, and the bakery has gained a loyal fan club that includes locals and vacationers.

Multiple factors contribute to The Jelly Cabinet’s success, but Jones attributes it to his passion for cooking. 

“I do it all from my heart,” Jones said. “I enjoy feeding people, and I enjoy preparing things for them. That is sacred to me.” 

Jones has loved cooking since he was a child. He often helped his grandmother by getting the ingredients for the goodies she was baking from her “jelly cabinet.” As an adult, Jones turned his passion into a career. After attending Cape Fear Community College’s culinary arts program, Jones worked at Apple Annie’s Bake Shop and the Whole Foods bakery department. Along the way, he was offered a position as an adjunct professor at CFCC, which turned into a full-time job in 2021.    

Though Jones had flirted with the idea of owning a bakery, he did nothing to further his dream until his sister found a bakery space at 1011 N. 4th St. for sale in July. It was the impetus Jones needed to take the plunge. 

“This was totally fly by the seat of my pants,” Jones said. “I just did it. I’m not a businessperson. I just knew I had a passion for food and wanted to do it, so I just jumped in.” 
Doing so took courage and perseverance – something else Jones learned from his grandma. While still teaching, a job Jones loves and plans to continue doing, he dove into action. 

In deference to the bakery’s tiny kitchen, Jones created an exceptional but limited menu. The Jelly Cabinet always carries six or seven standard items, including the above-mentioned classic cinnamon rolls, specialty cinnamon rolls, blueberry biscuits, cranberry-orange cake, coffee cake and JCB Bars – a sweet treat Jones’ mom made for him as a child. Jones also adds a weekly special, such as a bread pudding or brownie with his special touch.  

Another element central to Jones’ success is his refusal to take shortcuts. For example, he makes everything from scratch.  

“I’d rather have a smaller menu where stuff is made good, and it’s made right,” Jones said. “I don’t use canned pie filling or cake mixes. I don’t believe in that.” 

While many of Jones’ pastries are made from time-honored family recipes he has tweaked, he also “conjures new recipes” on the many nights when sleep eludes him. If the recipes don’t turn out, Jones said he goes back to the drawing board and makes them work. 

Jones’ late-night forays in the kitchen yield mouth-watering results, such as his flavored cinnamon rolls. There are bananas Foster, Apple Brown Betty and strawberry Nutella cinnamon rolls, to name just a few, as well as other Jones innovations such as his pumpkin chai bread pudding and dark chocolate espresso cake. 

“I have a crazy functional culinary brain,” Jones said. 

Since opening The Jelly Cabinet, Jones has added to-go holiday boxes, which feature his signature cinnamon rolls in take-and-bake form, and a selection of cakes, pies or other sweets. 

Jones has also begun branching out by collaborating with other businesses. His German pretzels were a hit at neighboring Palate’s Oktoberfest, as were the gourmet chocolates Jones made for the bottle shop’s Valentine’s Day Gift Set. Jones also created pastry boxes for Edge of Urge’s Valentine’s selections.  

Jones hopes to work with more businesses in the future. 

“It’s exciting to come up with ideas that we bounce back and forth and see what we come up with,” he said. 

The Jelly Cabinet’s popularity has surpassed Jones’ wildest expectations. The bakery is busy from opening to closing every Saturday and Sunday (the only days of the week it is open), with people willingly waiting in long lines to buy pastries.  

However, the bakery’s success has a downside: disappointed customers who arrive too late to get their favorite cinnamon roll or croissant or who can’t get to the bakery on the weekend. 
According to Jones, the simple solution of making more pastries isn’t feasible. As the sole baker working in a minuscule kitchen, he just can’t increase the amount of baked goods he offers each day. 

Jones devised a solution to address the problem. He holds occasional cinnamon roll evenings, during which customers can feast on cinnamon rolls and other gustatory delights. 

For now, Jones has all he can handle at The Jelly Cabinet. Expanding the business, however, has crossed his mind. Jones said he wouldn’t mind finding a bigger kitchen in which to bake his goods. And, if things continue to go well, he might consider a second location. 

“I don’t want to grow too quickly,” Jones said. “We’ll see what the future holds.”  
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