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Patrons, coworkers savor sweet memories of Roanoke's Krispy Kreme lady

Patrons, coworkers savor sweet memories of Roanoke's Krispy Kreme lady

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On early weekend mornings, when the lure of the fishing pond was calling, Michelle Diomedi and her grandfather would pack up the family car and head out for the water.

On the way, they always made one stop, a can’t-miss visit to the old Krispy Kreme shop that for decades operated on Melrose Avenue Northwest.

Inside, behind the counter, Anne Faries would be there to greet them. She always knew their order immediately — one coffee for granddad and one chocolate frosted doughnut for the kiddo.

“I’ll fix you up,” she’d assure them with a gentle smile. If an extra doughnut sometimes snuck into the bag for Diomedi, well, it would be anyone’s guess how that got there.

Faries, affectionately known as Mrs. Anne to generations of Roanokers, was a fixture at the popular doughnut shop, where she greeted customers for over three decades, manning the counter until well into her 70s and forging friendships that continued even after her retirement.

On Sunday, Faries died at the age of 85. She is survived by her children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren — along with countless other families across Roanoke in whose traditions she had a role.

“It seems like just yesterday,” said Diomedi, whose family was among the shop’s regulars. “I can see her there standing behind the counter.”

“She was just one of the most good-hearted people you could ever meet,” Diomedi said. “There was nowhere that you could go that people didn’t know Miss Anne ... She was the face of the doughnut shop.”

Faries, born Phyllis “Anne” Conner, had been a homemaker for many years when she decided to jump back into the workforce and found her niche at the doughnut counter, where customers and co-workers alike came to see her as a second mother and grandmother.

“Everybody loved her,” said Michele Braun, who worked with Faries for more than 20 years. “She just brightened up people’s days. Everyone would ask for her.”

The people, in return, were what Faries loved about working at the Krispy Kreme. She greeted everyone with a smile, and listened with a supportive ear to all who wanted to talk about their day.

Even a grumpy glazed doughnut seeker could count on a kind word. Those were the people who needed it most, Faries said.

One bit of kindness could turn someone else’s whole outlook around, she used to tell people, and you could be that person for them.

“That’s the way she looked at things,” said Diomedi, whose family became lifelong friends with Faries and her family.

“She was just a joy,” Diomedi said. “I think it speaks to her character how people were able to trust in her and open up to her.”

In 2013, a calamity struck the compact yet iconic, circa-1950s doughnut store location. An electrical fire kindled in the eaves of its attic closed its doors for 18 months until it was able to reopen in a new, modernized site on Hershberger Road.

At the time, Faries, 77, thought she might retire completely and devote herself fully to traveling with her husband and doting on her grandkids.

But when the new store opened in 2014, she was there for its 6 a.m. grand opening, handing out free doughnut holes to the line of customers who had camped out overnight to be the first at the counter when the “Hot Donuts Now” sign was fired up again.

“I just had such a great association with all my regulars that I’m going to miss them,” Faries once told The Roanoke Times as she contemplated retirement. “[B]ut I’m going to be keeping up with them and keeping them in my life.”

That was a promise she didn’t forget. There were regulars she still kept in touch with and checked up on years later.

“She’s going to be very missed,” said Braun, who worked with Faries at both doughnut stores. “It makes me cry.”

“She loved the people at Krispy Kreme,” Braun said. “It’s a sweet place to work.”

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