Alvin Lee Smalls (Lee Lee), born in Georgetown, South Carolina, was raised in one of the richest culinary enclaves in the United States. Georgetown, SC is known for its vibrant culinary cuisine, surrounded by waterways brimming with shrimp, craw fish and all manner of seafood. The area is also well known for its cultivation of rice and indigo.
Alvin and his 10 siblings all worked at the family's General Store and Alvin's favorite job was watching his sister make Box Cake in the family kitchen. Marion, Alvin's father prepared all of the family's meals and after school Alvin worked as a dishwasher at Thomas' Cafe. Alvin graduated from dishwasher to short order cook at Mamie's Restaurant in Myrtle Beach and in the summer 1960, he lead a strike to improve wages and safety for all who worked there. Alvin moved to New York City in 1962 and joined the award winning culinary team at New York Hospital. His first position in the kitchen was peeling onions but was soon drawn to the baking team. Within months of arriving Alvin began working along side the great pastry chef, George Mermin, and quickly made himself indispensable, mastering every single pastry to perfection.
After 27 years of service Alvin left New York Hospital and, despite having 2 spinal surgeries, opened his own Bakery in 1988, called Marion Smalls Bake Shop, located on Amsterdam Avenue. Business grew and so did the rent, so Alvin (by now affectionately known as Mr. Lee) moved to his current flagship location at 283 West 118th Street, just off of Frederick Douglass Boulevard, in Harlem.
Lee Lee's Bakery has received numerous awards from the New York State Senate, Harlem Business Associations, and Citywide Churches. Lee Lee's Rugelach is a vendor with Whole Foods Market and has been featured on NPR, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. Celebrating 55 years of Baking and 30 years as a businessman in New York City, Alvin says, "Love in the hand, is my secret ingredient and my heart & soul go into each piece I create. Listen, if you're going to eat sweet, eat good sweet. LEE LEE's IS GOOD SWEET"