Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part Q&A with Wendy Wilson
Residence: Peach County
Occupation: Owner-operator, Wilson’s Bakery
Q: You’re 49 years old now and have spent 41 years in the bakery business. You said you’ve done it all from counter girl to the baking to business owner — so what’s next for you and Wilson’s Bakery?
A: We’re looking at doing a lot in 2017. We’re looking at additions like starting a basic soup, salad and sandwich cafe plus coffee shop next to our Miller Hills Shopping Center bakery. We bought the building next door and want to turn it into a downtown neighborhood cafe that measures up to our mission and goals.
Q: What mission and goals?
A: Our commitment to service and quality. It’s important we not lose that as we grow. We want to be part of our growing community and our mission is to have a positive impact on everybody we can, whether it’s through a bag of cookies for the family or to put as a gift on somebody’s desk or by their coming in to pick up donuts or a special cake. We’re about “baking people happy,” as we say. The cafe-coffee shop has to do the same and be a refreshing gathering place for baked goods and a light meal during the week or special family visit. We want it to be part of people’s lives and do everything for the right reasons.
Q: When do you plan on opening?
A: Sometime. There are hiccups when you try to go forward and we want to get it right. It’s not as easy as knocking a hole in the wall. We’re taking our time to have the right people and good teamwork.
Q: Other plans?
A: Online shopping and shipping. We want to make it easier for people to get a taste of home. We’ve got so many people who come by to see if that bakery is still there that sells those cookies. People who used to live here with the Air Force or who grew up here. Being able to order online will help and will open up opportunities for us.
Q: Aside from your successful local business venture, you’re part of the wider baking community. How so?
A: I’m president of the Southeastern Retail Bakers Association. That’s brought us a wealth of baking and business knowledge and given me the opportunity to serve others. It helps us keep up with regulations and understand trends and how to do our best for our employees.
Q: How many members are in the association?
A: Close to about 300, I guess. I’m also into the University of Georgia’s small business development program. That’s really helpful. I’m glad for whatever helps us prosper because we can love what we do all day long but unless the business side is working, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to have some business knowledge.
Q: But baking is the fun part?
A: Oh yeah. But I enjoy the business challenge, too.
Q: With your baking — and you talked about selling 10,000 dozen Fingernut cookies this month — you must use huge amounts of ingredients?
A: Yeah, we use big, big measures for everything from the Fingernuts to iced butter cookies and cake squares and petit-fours. And doughnuts. At home you’re using teaspoons but here it’s gallons, not teaspoons. Like 5 gallons of water to a batch, that kind of thing. To give some idea: in December we’ll go through at least 25,000 pounds of powdered sugar.
Q: You also talked about the debt you owe the bakery’s original owner, Isak Nygaard, who started it in 1950s and was considered a business and community leader in Warner Robins’ early days. If he ran it for 30 to 35 years and now you’ve been a baker for 41 years and owned the business for almost 30 years — doesn’t that put you on a par with him?
A: Hmm — never thought of that. At 20 years I realized I’d owned it twice as long as my dad had, but I never thought about that and Mr. Nygaard. I can just say it’s been a blessing to do what I love and be part of Warner Robins and people’s lives. I know what we offer isn’t something you have to have, it’s not a necessity. It’s a treat and we try to make it a very special treat. Being the owner, it matters to me how things are. When the carpal tunnel kicks in and the hours get long you have to think about the smiles from people and the goodness of baking, about having that positive impact on someone’s routine day.
Q: Does that figure into what you said about wanting to “do everything we do for the right reasons?”
A: Honestly, I’m humbled to have any kind of impact on our community and be part of people’s lives and history. Since the days of Mr. Nygaard, there have been military people all over the world in all kinds of situations that have gotten care packages from home with our baked goods. We think about quality for them and everybody else and it means something to us. We’re a family oriented, faith-based business and want to glorify our Heavenly Father as well as make that impact. We want to have a purpose in all we do.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.