What Makes Urban Kitchen Birmingham Al So Addictive That You Never Want To Miss One?

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Soon afterwards Millie Ray broiled her aboriginal accumulation of orange rolls for her Homewood garden club aback in 1979, her candied and adhesive treats became a anniversary attitude about the Ray house.

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It developed into a nice little sideline, as her accompany ordered them by the dozens to accord as Christmas gifts.

“As continued as I’ve been born, during the holidays, Mom would consistently accept orange rolls activity in our kitchen,” her youngest son, Ryan Ray, says.

“Our kitchen would about-face into an orange cycle factory, and she would aloof pump them out — 70, 80, a hundred dozen during the holidays, aloof for accompany and family.”

These days, Millie Ray — forth with her husband, Ben Ray Jr., and sons Ryan and Ben III — is churning out 720 dozen rolls a day, as her Millie Ray’s cast of orange, biscuit and aggrandize rolls has become a candied little success adventure aloof 16 months afterwards the Rays launched their ancestors business in February 2010.

As chat has gotten around, Millie Ray’s rolls are now on auction in grocery aliment and restaurants in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

In the Birmingham area, they are accessible at Urban Cookhouse, V. Richards, the New York Butcher Shoppe, Murphree’s Fruits & Vegetables, Mr. P’s Deli, and at Piggly Wiggly and Western supermarkets.

“What we’ve been accomplishing is targeting the mom-and-pop-type shops, which has been absolute acknowledged for us,” Ryan Ray says. “Our artefact speaks for itself — aloof put it in your mouth.”

Until April, Ryan Ray was loading coolers abounding with his mother’s rolls assimilate the aback of his Ford F-150 auto barter and alone carrying them out of the company’s bartering kitchen in Montgomery, area the Rays confused in 1992.

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Then, the ancestors angry that allotment of the operation over to Birmingham-based aliment benefactor Wood Fruitticher, which handles all of the distribution, absolution the Rays to focus on accomplishment and marketing.

“Since we got absorbed up with Wood Fruitticher, it has absolutely accustomed us a attempt in the arm,” Ryan Ray says. “When we did their aliment appearance in Destin, we appealing abundant tripled our business in about an eight-hour period.”

In these accomplished few months, he adds, Millie Ray’s has gone from bearing 240 dozen rolls a day to 720. The aboriginal orange rolls abide the top seller.

A new career

For 30 years, Millie Ray formed as a real-estate bagman and was agreeable to advertise her orange rolls on the ancillary while she aloft two boys and ran a baby accouterment business alleged Delectable Edibles.

Then aback the real-estate bazaar soured, her sons, who calm opened a Zoe’s Kitchen area in Atlanta, assertive her it was time to alpha business her rolls to the masses.

“I aloof never absolutely anticipation about accomplishing annihilation like that,” Millie Ray says. “Then aback my two sons got in the restaurant business, it was their abstraction to go this way.

“I attending at it as their approaching and my retirement,” the 64-year-old Ray adds. “And that’s how we evolved. This is my full-time job now.”

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Urban Cookhouse in Homewood helped Millie Ray’s get a ballast in the Birmingham bazaar aback the restaurant opened aftermost year and began featuring the orange rolls on its menu.

The restaurant now goes through about 2,800 rolls a week, including accouterment orders, according to Andrea Snyder, who owns Urban Cookhouse with her husband, David.

“It’s one of our signature items,” Andrea Snyder says. “When bodies say annihilation about us, they consistently allocution about our birthmark lemonade and the orange rolls. We’re accepted for them now.”

In the Millie Ray’s kitchen in Montgomery, Millie Ray oversees all of the cooking, while son Ben III works as the operations administrator and Ryan handles sales and business and manages the books.

“I accord all the acclaim in the apple to my mom,” Ryan Ray says. “She is the hardest artisan I’ve anytime met in my life. It’s astonishing the affection she has about it, and what she’s done.

“She will go there at 5:45 or 6 o’clock in the morning, and she will assignment until 6 o’clock at night, every distinct day.”

Ben Ray Jr., who is semi-retired, splits his time amid his job as a appliance salesman and alive at Millie Ray’s, area he helps bag the rolls and amount them assimilate a air-conditioned barter for commitment to their Birmingham distributor.

“He’s affectionate of the artist abaft our biscuit rolls, as far as the blueprint for our ingredients, our icing and accommodation and all that,” Ryan Ray says. “He is the absolute artistic apperception out of the family.”

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In accession to the ancestors members, Millie Ray’s has bristles advisers alive out of the company’s 600-square-foot kitchen.

Back to Birmingham

By abutting year, the Rays plan to move their operation to Birmingham — in part, to be afterpiece to their distributor, but mainly, to be aback home again.

“We accept 11 months larboard on our lease, so this time abutting year, we hopefully will be bearing in Birmingham,” Ryan Ray says. “It’s home for Mom and Dad, and it’s area Ben and I grew up as adolescent kids.

“We aloof appetite to get aback to Birmingham,” he adds. “It’s area Millie Ray’s started, and it’s area we appetite to booty it to the abutting level.”

With a aggregation to run, Millie Ray doesn’t accept the time or the admiration to accomplish her orange rolls at home anymore.

But Ryan Ray, who has been bistro his mother’s rolls back he was a little boy, says the ones she is affairs now are every bit as aperitive as those he grew up on.

“I anticipate they’re better,” he says. “She’s got it bottomward now. She’s in a groove.”

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Join the chat by beat to animadversion or e-mail Carlton at bcarlton@bhamnews.com.

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