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Clear skies. Low 42F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: October 5, 2022 @ 4:33 pm
London will celebrate Honey Bun Day this Saturday.
London will celebrate Honey Bun Day this Saturday.
With about 10 million honey buns baked in London a week and providing hundreds of jobs, it’s a natural for the city to organize a special day to honor the venerable sweet treat.
Honey Bun Day will be held in downtown London on Saturday, October 8, to celebrate the thousands of jobs created by the honey bun since 1953. Special events will include the Honey Bun Redbud Ride, Taste the Buns Honey Bun Food Challenge and Cidernight at the Market.
The highlight of the day will be an attempt to set a record for the most people eating a honey bun at the same time. (For specific information about the events, go to honeybunday.com).
Flowers Bakery of London, a division of Flowers Foods, is one of the sponsors of Honey Bun Day, along with the City of London Tourism, London-Laurel County Tourism and London Downtown.
Flowers employs more than 600 people at its bakery on Fourth Street and turns out nearly 3 million pounds of honey buns, donuts, donut sticks, and fried pies every week on nine production lines, the company said. Combined, its three honey bun lines can produce almost 60,000 honey buns an hour or about 10 million honey buns per week. It also churns out a lot of doughnuts – about 336,000 per hour when its four donut lines are running at full capacity.
It’s not surprising, then, that the bakery claims that if every item it made in a week was laid end-to-end, the line of treats would stretch 2,559 miles – more than the distance between Jacksonville, Florida, and San Diego, California.
The sweet smell of honey buns and other baked goods from Flowers often envelops downtown London, providing a sensory link to a story that dates back to the 1920s and the Griffin family.
Louis Griffin was a restaurant owner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who had his mother, Mary Ellen Griffin, make small pies to round out his menu. The pies were so popular at the restaurant that in 1926, Griffin sold the restaurant, moved his family to Greensboro, North Carolina, and started making the small fried pies in his own kitchen, selling them to local restaurants. In 1929, Griffin Baking Company was born.
Then, Nelson Griffin, Louis oldest son, joined the company and began developing sales for the fried pies. After World War II, Nelson Griffin started his own business in Charleston, West Virginia, making the popular fried pies and other items.
“My dad was a builder and a dreamer. He liked going into new territories and developing new products,” said Nelson Griffin Jr. of London.
Nelson Griffin’s brother-in-law, William Brooks, joined the business in 1951 and the bakery expanded to seven cities in six states, including Griffin Pie Company in London in 1953.
“One talent my dad had was surrounding himself with good people,” Nelson Jr. said. “I couldn’t name all the people that been instrumental in making what it became.”
But in 1971, tragedy struck Griffin Pie when a fire destroyed the bakery on South U.S. 25 down from the new Laurel County High School.
Bob Kidd, Brooks’ son-in-law, had joined the company in 1964 and was in the process of moving his family to London. He said they were devastated when they drove into town and saw the bakery still smoldering. Despite the fire, the family still completed the move to London.
The Laurel County community rallied around Griffin Pie. Local businessmen contributed $25,000 and a small business loan enabled the company to buy the vacant Sterling Hardware building on Fourth Street. It was large enough to consolidate all the bakeries into one.
“What we saw as the end of the world coming into town that day actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Griffin Pie,” Kidd said. “Because it allowed Nelson and Bill to be in the same location and manage the business from the same place. There was a synergy to bringing everyone together in one location. The best years of the company grew from that.”
By 1983, when it was acquired by Flowers Industries, Griffin Pie Company was distributing honey buns and other products to about 30 states.
Both Kidd and Nelson Griffin Jr. said Griffin Pie and the community have grown together.
“The relationship with the people here in London — people made our company successful.” Kidd said. “The work ethic of the people of Laurel County is phenomenal. In turn, the company made the opportunity for people’s lives to be better.”
So who created the first honey bun? As the story goes it was Louis Griffin’s brother, Howard Griffin, who developed the first honey bun in 1954, and it’s been a best-seller ever since.
“In the early 50’s they were making cinnamon rolls,” Nelson Jr. said. “From that he added honey to the ingredients, and eventually developed the first commercial honey bun.”
The rich history of the honey bun and the Griffin family will be celebrated in London on Saturday, October 8.
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