By Alexandria Rappe
You know how in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory you, along with the children, experience Wonka’s world of chocolate waterfalls, chocolate eggs and chocolate bars? Well, when you step into Fayetteville’s Superior Bakery, you are also transported into another world in itself with everything sweet, glazed, sprinkled and filled with delicacy.
It essentially was a small thought from John S. Poulos that grew into the fine and well-loved establishment. Poulos was only 20, with a first-grade education, when he immigrated to the United States from Greece. He was wandering downtown when he happened to stumble upon a bakery. He was surprised. He didn’t realize America had such a thing. In Athens, Greece, he spent his time working at a bakery. That was 1951. And soon enough, the idea of “maybe one day” became a reality five years later with the help of his wife, Kay. Under the Poulos’, Superior Bakery opened in 1956 on Raeford Road and was there until 1971. Superior Bakery has since resided on Hope Mills Road, currently owned by son, Nick Poulos.
Nick attempted to do something different. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and studied business management and banking, with the hopes of finding a job and “figuring it out.” But as he says “life happens” and “29 years later I’m still here.”
He recalled his parents, John. S. and his mother Kay were a “power couple.” “It was a partnership 100 percent. You don’t hear just ‘John.’ It has always been ‘John and Kay,’” he said. His mother helped out with everything, including the finances. Kay herself is also originally from Greece, immigrating to the states when she was only 16-years-old in 1948. The two of them met in Virginia when John S. traveled there to meet his brother’s fiancée. Only did they learn later that the villages they grew up in Greece neighbored each other.
Poulos and his siblings grew up and labored in the kitchen, baking daily. Spring breaks, summer breaks, all through college, he was there helping out. Poulos even remembers getting his license on a Friday afternoon and the next day he was in the bakery.
This notion of family has carried over into many aspects on how Poulos runs the business. It’s one of the reasons he believes one should come into Superior instead of well-known chain doughnut shops. Poulos explained, “A formula is about quality, homemade, paid attention to food—with love and care. It’s also about making people feel like family when they come in.” It’s why Superior offers free coffee. It’s why when there’s a long line during a Saturday morning, free doughnuts are served while you wait. It’s why as soon as you walk into the door, every single employee offers you a hearty greeting. And that’s just the glaze on top.
Poulos then goes on to say, “the way your employees treat your customers, is reflected on how the employees are treated by the upper management.” He offered this example: the manager of a busy restaurant barks and growls impatiently at the chef to hurry up, this in turn causes the chef to snap at the waiter/waitress who receives the food, which easily effects how the waiter/waitress serves his or her table. “You don’t need to go to a seminar or read a book on it. Treat your staff like gold and it carries over to customer service,” said Poulos.
Humble and honest, Poulos admits he’d be zero without his staff. Bakers begin at Superior at 3:00 a.m., prepping and processing the dough made the day before, making the doughnuts, fillings and croissants. And this is all during a 12-hour shift. “It’s crazy hard work and no one wants to get up and do that,” he laughed. Poulos starts his morning before the sun is awake, tending to administrative work such as counting up orders, checking production sheets, but also making sure he bakes with the guys too. He also gives credit to cake maker, Ms. Bobbie, who works part time, but nevertheless gracefully handles five to sometimes 15 cake orders. Cakes, cookies and loaf cakes are some of the many items the bakery offers. The fried croissants are the number-one hit. Poulos never dreamed people would want something of that nature. Nevertheless, he doesn’t question it, and rather thanks God people love to eat fried food.
Every day is fast-paced and busy, but more so during Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve. The busy business is a blessing of course, but Poulos is served with some challenges as well. The biggest one is being preoccupied. He said he has to concentrate to live in the moment. “I’m busy six days a week and it is hard being able to think clearly.” It’s a struggle we all can surely relate to and deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes Poulos will get up at midnight and check on the upcoming forecast. The bakery may close an hour early due to inclemency, but not often. “I have my snow plow and we are then ready to rock n’ roll. Like my dad told me, ‘you can’t make any money with the doors locked.’”
That’s not all John S. Poulos taught him. Be accountable. Have a good work ethic. Be honest and tell the truth. It has paid off tremendously. On the front, left wall in the bakery are several frames displaying their achievements. Talk about superior. Furthermore, an employee also described Poulos as one of the kindest people she’s ever met. She doesn’t even recall the day she started working at the bakery because she enjoys it so much. Seems like the phrase “Choose a job you love and you never have to work a day in your life,” holds true.
Even if you haven’t set foot inside the bakery, there is still a chance you have tasted their food. Superior Bakery distributes their bread to a number of favorited restaurants around Fayetteville: Luigi’s, Chris’s Steakhouse, Rainbow Restaurant, Spinner’s Pizza, The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop, Elizabeth’s Pizza and Brooklyn Pizza. But still, visiting Superior Bakery is encouraged. “Our doughnuts may not all be the same size and shape. They are all cut by hand, not spit out from a machine, so they aren’t perfect, but they are fresh.” Poulos stated.
All the left overs go to charity as Poulos hates to waste food.
Come and enjoy sweets and be a part of an atmosphere that is equally appetizing. They are open Monday through Saturday, 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and located on 2433 Hope Mills Road. And you don’t even need a golden ticket.