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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

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ORAL HISTORY

Martha Crowe Jones & Marcyne Jones


Sally Bell's Kitchen

If there is one thing Richmonders can count on, it’s the boxed lunch from Sally Bell’s Kitchen. Sarah “Sallie” Cabell Jones met Elizabeth Lee Milton at the Richmond Exchange for Woman’s Work in the early twentieth century. The Richmond Exchange, one of many such organizations across the South, started in 1883. It allowed women to earn money selling goods, wares, and food in order to help them become self-sufficient.

Sarah and Elizabeth opened Sally Bell’s Kitchen (then called Sarah Lee Kitchen) in 1924 on Grace Street, directly across from its current location, at a time when it was exceptionally rare for women to have their own business. Elizabeth eventually left the business, and Sarah took over for the next several decades.

In the 1960s, Marcyne Jones, who married Sarah Cabell Jones’ son, Hunter, took over the business after mother-in-law retired. Like the recipes from Sarah Cabell’s little green notebook—the potato salad, the mayonnaise, the icing for the cupcakes—the business has remained in the family. In 1985, Martha Crowe Jones, Marcyne’s daughter-in-law, took the reins. Today, several of the women working in the kitchen have been with Sally Bell’s for decades. And generations of customers continue to stand in line for their famous five-item boxed lunch.

Date of interview:
February 16, 2013

Interviewer:
Sara Wood

Photographer:
Sara Wood

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