The Sun News

Wilson’s Bakery will sell at least 120,000 of these cookies in December

Wilson’s Bakery’s famous fingernut cookies are pictured in this 2014 file photo.
Wilson’s Bakery’s famous fingernut cookies are pictured in this 2014 file photo. wmarshall@macon.com

Residence: Peach County

Occupation: Owner-operator, Wilson’s Bakery

Q: How long have you been a baker?

A: My family had a bakery in Perry, so I started pretty young. I was 8.

Q: How old are you now?

A: I’m 49.

Q: What do you think you’ve baked more of than anything else?

A: Fingernut cookies. Easily. They’re our claim to fame, original to us and pretty much exclusive to us. This month we’ll sell 10,000 dozen or more of this one product.

Q: Not just 10,000, but 10,000 dozen?

A: Right, 10,000 dozen.

Q: You own Wilson’s Bakery in Warner Robins, which has quite a history. How did that come about?

A: My father, Thomas Wilson, had a Perry bakery in the 1970s and bought Nygaard’s Bakery in Warner Robins in 1979. We had been really cramped for space and my dad bought Isak Nygaard’s bakery mainly for the production space, the kitchen. I think he was surprised at what he actually got.

Q: What did he actually get?

A: A for-real business with an incredible customer base of friends and neighbors. Mr. Nygaard was a great baker and businessman. He was a part of the community and its history. He started Nygaard’s in the 1950s on North Commercial Circle and built it up as Warner Robins grew. We were looking for kitchen space then realized what Nygard’s really had going for it.

Q: A good thing, right?

A: For the next 10 years my life changed. We went from a quiet Perry bakery to like — whoa! We worked night and day in a booming business to make orders. Holidays we didn’t go home; we ordered a pizza and slept on flour sacks. I lived and breathed the trade through my school years.

Q: You didn’t buy the Commercial Circle location, did you?

A: No, dad bought the current location in Miller Hills Shopping Center on Watson Boulevard. When Mr. Nygaard moved here he was moving the bakery to the new, premier shopping center. At the time Watson hadn’t been much more than a dirt road up this way.

Q: When did you buy and become president of Wilson’s Bakery?

A: I bought it from my dad in 1989. I was 21.

Q: A well-seasoned, 21-year-old baker?

A: An experienced baker, but as a business person — not so much. Actually, I had left the bakery at 18 and worked for Piggly Wiggly for three-and-a-half years. I was burned out from working 60-, 70-hour weeks and going to school. I wanted a break plus I wanted to see what I could do on my own. I became bakery manager and then opened a lot of their store bakeries. I learned a lot about marketing, management, profit-loss, inventory, scheduling and other business matters. But I wanted to do more, and Piggly Wiggly wasn’t going to promote a 21-year-old girl to regional manager.

Q: So back to the family bakery?

A: Dad had always asked me, “When are you going to buy the bakery?” So I did. Mr. Nygaard still owned the building and helped me finance and buy it.

Q: Did it continue to do well?

A: We almost doubled sales the first year. It’s been an evolving, growing thing since. But by no means am I a self-made success. A lot of people and a lot of wisdom came my way, and I’m grateful. I learned as a kid, then there was Mr. Nygaard. He admired me for being a younger person who was doing something and helped me a lot. He helped me learn the business and even came in and helped out some. And the fingernut cookies came from him with the business. All that, plus faith in God. I often feel I’m walking in his plans, not mine.

Q: You don’t regret locking into one thing at 21 — what you’d done since you were 8 — and sticking with it?

A: It’s been almost 28 years since I bought it, and that sounds overwhelming, but there’ve been so many customers and people and employees so dear to me. We’ve thought of moving but always decided to stay here on Watson, though a lot has changed. I love being part of the community and growing with it. I do miss being the counter girl and greeting customers, but moving to the back office and kitchen has been part of the deal.

Q: What time do you get to work? Bakers keep early hours.

A: We open at 6 a.m. and close at 5.30 p.m., 3 p.m. on Saturdays, but I have a really good crew that comes in at 3 a.m. In my role here and as a single mom with twins, I get to come in at 9.30. This side of town is definitely an 8-to-5 office-oriented, base-oriented and hospital-oriented place. Saturdays, our clientele changes, and we’re a point of destination with people coming and bringing their kids. The holidays, October through December, is definitely a baker’s peak season. Christmas-parade day is a big deal with people having a tradition of coming in even if they don’t make it other times of the year. At any time though, it’s a big thing for us to see people light up over what we’ve made. It’s humbling and makes the hours worthwhile.

Q: So you relax as you start the new year?

A: Take a breath, yeah. But we’re always busy, and there’ll be a lot going on next year. We’re re-thinking and looking at reformatting a lot in 2017. But most important to us is not changing the quality of what people want, expect and get at Wilson’s, but we’re looking at some changes.

Q&A with Wendy Wilson will continue in Part 2 in the next Sun News.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

Q&A with Wendy Wilson

Residence: Peach County

Occupation: Owner-operator, Wilson’s Bakery

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