East Durham Bake Shop, a popular pie shop located at the corner of Angier and South Driver, has closed amid allegations of a toxic workplace. Ownership announced the news in an abrupt Tuesday afternoon Instagram post.

The news comes a little over a week after WRAL reported that 14 former employees of the shop alleged a “toxic” work environment at stark odds with the shop’s community-facing mission. In a social media post on August 30, ownership addressed the allegations, writing, “We want to assure our community that we have worked hard to address issues as they’ve come up.” The post included steps they were taking to address the issues. 

The September 8 post made no mention of the allegations, or whether the pandemic was an underlying cause for the closure. 

“It is with so much sadness and heartache that we share that we will be closing our doors at the end of the day Sunday,” the Instagram post read. “This thing grew out of our home kitchen many years ago, where we would deliver pies to neighbors and friends all over Durham. We did pop ups and birthdays and weddings, until eventually we landed out cafe. It is with your support that we grew, and got to know so many of you.” 

Married duo Ali Rudel and Ben Filippo opened the shop together in 2018, a few years after moving from Brooklyn, where Rudel worked at the legendary pie shop, Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

East Durham has become the face of Durham’s dramatic neighborhood gentrification, with development patterns that closely mirror the redlined districts of the 1930s, pushing many longtime and low-income Black residents out.

East Durham Bakeshop, located at 406 S. Driver Street, came about after Rudel and Filippo launched a Kickstarter to help get their pies from their kitchen to a brick-and-mortar location The campaign successfully raised more than $24,000 and, when the bakery opened its doors, ownership was vocal about its commitment to the neighborhood and to paying a living wage.

An artful “Just Because” board displayed by the register allowed patrons to pay ahead of a future customer, with a future need. 

In the WRAL story, however, former employee Ella Thomas noted that people who used the board to redeem free goods were “looked down upon.” Other employees describe an atmosphere in which payroll practices were not transparent, coded racism was used by management in regards to both customers and staff, and ownership lacked sensitivity to the upscale bakery’s presence in the surrounding neighborhood.

Rudel denies Thomas’s claim, alongside other allegations. 

“We cannot comment on specific employment issues, but we do not treat employees differently based on race or other personal characteristics whether in hiring and firing decisions or in disciplinary action,” Rudel told WRAL. 

The bakery noted in the post that it will be open this week through Sunday, September 13. It did not state whether the store market, located at 2026 Angier Avenue, will also close. 

Rudel did not respond to the INDY‘s requests for comment. 

Follow Deputy Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or send an email to sedwards@indyweek.com

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