Sugar Plum Bakery was founded and incorporated in 1985 as a not-for-profit organization following a demonstration grant award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities. To receive this grant award (200 awarded out of 2200 applications) a market and investment feasibility study was undertaken to satisfy the retail/commercial need for a bakery business in this particular location and community. Many business ideas were considered but the bakery idea not only met the criteria for a market need it also provided various skill levels and employment opportunities in a business which would produce everything it sold every single day. Following notification by the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington that Sugar Plum Bakery was in line for one of the grants, hands-on managerial training began at the Ukrops Bakery Production Center in Richmond. The initial Board of Directors as well as an Advisory Board of various agencies working in education and services for persons with disabilities began laying the framework for Sugar Plum Bakery.

This demonstration project was developed to serve as what is considered in layman’s terms, an entrepreneurial model of supported employment for persons with developmental disabilities. In other words, the necessary environment and a structural linkage of tasks would be established in various programs in a prototype business. Persons with disabilities, with appropriate and long-term assistance and follow-along services, could “grow” in their jobs and achieve long term employment stability. Sugar Plum Bakery would demonstrate that persons with disabilities could be accepted and compensated like their non-disabled peers in a business, which employs them both.

Additional financial support was provided by many private foundations, businesses and organizations such as State of Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Knights of Columbus for the Mentally Retarded (KOVAR), Norfolk Foundation, Parsons Foundation, City of Virginia Beach, banks and others. The private community also provided additional, necessary financial supports as well as many in kind services. The U.S. Navy Submarine Group scraped, caulked and painted the exterior of the building, and garden clubs landscaped the planting beds. Sugar Plum Bakery became a real community project.

In October 1987, Sugar Plum Bakery opened its doors for business. This business operates year round, providing the community and visitors with “mouth watering” array of bakery products. Sugar Plum Bakery is governed by a 14 member Board of Directors of community leaders. These dedicated persons set policy and budget, Fund- raise and provide necessary supports to ensure the continuance and growth of the project.

The Sugar Plum Bakery Staff includes paid workers and several volunteers who help with the day to day operations and are the “lifeline” between the community and those persons with disabilities who are integrating themselves in the workplace and everyday life. In service training is continuous for a support staff that usually has had no training in working with persons with disabilities. When Sugar Plum Bakery began, there were four persons with disabilities working in one program.

Sugar Plum Bakery networks continuously with various agencies and organizations providing services for persons with disabilities.

In 1990 the State of Virginia vended Sugar Plum Bakery as a provider of Rehabilitative Services. Sugar Plum is currently vended to provide services through DARS in the following areas: Situational Assessments, Work Adjustment Training, and Skills Training. Sugar Plum Bakery currently offers the following services through DARS: Supported Employment Job Development Services, Individual Placement and Training, Enclave Supported Employment Placement and Training, Entrepreneurial Supported Employment Placement and Training, Job Development Services, Work Adjustment Facility Based Services, Situational Assessments, Supported Employment Enclave, and Individual Follow Along.

Sugar Plum Bakery has been accredited by CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) since 2003.

In 1993 Sugar Plum Bakery and the Community Services Board of Virginia Beach partnered together. An enclave with 14 slots was brought into the bakery to provide job skills training for individuals with profound disabilities. The enclave is supervised by a job coach provided by the city and supported by Sugar Plum Bakery.

In the mid to late 1990’s it became very apparent that Sugar Plum Bakery was outgrowing its current facility. The building was very old and in great need of repair. The old wooden structure was not handicap accessible.

The Curtis Group conducted a feasibility study in November 2000. The study showed that there was a desire and a need to build a new facility. Once again the Board of Directors; now made up of new community leaders; went to work to raise awareness and money for the future Sugar Plum Bakery. Money slowly trickled in and plans for the new bakery were drawn up. It was decided that the plans did not allow for future growth of the bakery. In 2002 new plans that would include a second level were created. Once again the community and many foundations came together to make the vision a reality. Construction of the new bakery began in November 2002. The old bakery closed on Mother’s Day 2003 to allow for the completion of the new building. On July 18, 2003 Sugar Plum Bakery opened it new doors. Sugar Plum Bakery is now almost 7000 sq ft and totally handicap accessible. The new bakery was comprised of modern bakery equipment, an elevator, a café, a laundry area, and a beautiful retail area.

In July 2006 Sugar Plum Bakery started its own Prevocational program through Medicaid Waiver. Seven slots were made available to Medicaid Waiver clients who are in need of services to obtain job skills training. We currently have 6 slots filled and continue to work to fill the open slot. Clients work from 8:30 to 12:30 on various bakery tasks including scooping cookies and making pastries and specialty desserts for the retail cases. Clients participate in art projects, music therapy class and work in the computer lab.

In July 2009 Sugar Plum Bakery added a second Prevocational program through Medicaid Waiver with 7 slots modeled after our morning enclave. Clients work from 11:30 to 3:30 on various bakery tasks, art projects, music, and computer lab work.

In September 2016, a waiver design was implemented by the state. Prevocational services would no longer be supported. Sugar Plum Bakery moved to a group supported employment model. We currently have 13 participants in the program. Participants are paid workers who are the back bone of the bakery. They hand scoop our home made cookie doughs, depan cakes, grease pans, make turnovers, cupcakes, hand cut cookies and so much more.

Sugar Plum Bakery is growing better with everyday. Walking a fine line between Sugar Plum Bakery as a business and Sugar Plum Bakery as a rehabilitative facility has always been a delicate balancing feat. However difficult, Sugar Plum Bakery continues to work well and persons with disabilities continue to be successfully employed in our community.