Alvin Lee Smalls is a humble man of few words. But the passion in his eyes speaks volumes. Smalls — known to the hungry people of Harlem as Mr. Lee — has been spreading the sweet smell of chocolate through the neighborhood since 2001.
At Lee Lee’s Bakery, this 75-year-old baker puts his heart and soul into making a Jewish crescent-shaped pastry called rugelach. He found a recipe in a newspaper 50 years ago. The rest is history, as he now has a cult following.
Each pastry is filled with nuts and raisins — and either has a chocolate, apricot or raspberry base. While there are other baked goods in his shop, rugelach is what gets these customers excited. It’s also the southern-Jewish twist that makes this place so charming for those who come here.
Mr. Lee says he makes about 250 rugelach a day during the week and about 700 a day on weekends. Even though he is in his 70s, Mr. Lee has no plans of slowing down any time soon. In fact, he only plans to add more items to the menu.