Will’s closes dine-in restaurant, gets back to the basics with plans to expand
Since 2016, Will's Cinnamon Shop has made quite the name for itself in Hot Springs. Locals and visitors alike have been known to flock to the shop located at 1001 Central Ave., sometimes enduring as long as an hour wait on a weekend just to enjoy one of these delectable cinnamon or savory rolls. So imagine the panic that ensued when Will's announced on its Facebook Page Jan. 4 that after having been closed since Christmas Eve due to the owners contracting COVID-19 that "Will’s as you know it now will not be reopening."
Despite adding "Before any panic happens, we are not going away!" to this Jan. 4 post, not much more detail was given as to what the future of Will's will look like. It wasn't until Jan. 8 the post came that explained in a video the "very hard decision" owners Will and Katie Byrd had to make that involved no longer operating Will's as a dine-in restaurant.
“We’re going to do more by doing less,” Will and Katie said in the video, with mentioning having "more time to try new stuff," a traveling food trailer, selling rolls in bulk, catering and "going back to the garage." They also said they wanted to do this for their "health, happiness and future."
"It’s been great, we just need to change gears a little bit," Will and Katie said.
Then comes a Jan. 14 Facebook Post from Will's informing people the establishment taking its spot will be Destiny's Bakeshop. And yes, this bakeshop will be selling Will's Cinnamon Rolls. It's not exactly the Will's experience everyone has grown to know and love, but Will told The Post he is optimistic about the future of his business, and expects it to better serve and be more involved in the community, and be a business model more suitable for his family.
Back to the basics
Will's started in Will and Katie's home. First it was in their kitchen, then in their garage-turned-kitchen before making it inside the current dine-in restaurant. Now, it's going back inside a garage-turned-kitchen that's attached to the current shop at 1001 Central Ave.
Having always loved cinnamon rolls, Will had the idea to start his own cinnamon roll distribution in Hot Springs after having an incredible cinnamon roll from Ann Sather in Chicago while on vacation.
"I was eating these, and I thought, 'oh my gosh.' Since I moved from California I had not found a cinnamon roll that I really just loved. Everything was fried, and that’s just not my jam. So I’m eating them, and I’m like man I wish somebody in Hot Springs made cinnamon rolls like this, I’d be there all the time. And I just kept eating, and I told Katie, I said ‘man, if I can figure out how to make a cinnamon roll this good and we serve Red Light Roastery coffee, that would be an amazing place.’"
Will came home and started learning how to make a cinnamon roll.
"I’m not a baker, I’m not a cook; I had literally never baked a thing in my life before these cinnamon rolls," he said. "... I just Googled the recipe at random and tried it and they tasted like hockey pucks, and so I tried another recipe and finally I started just changing the recipe and started doing my own thing, and it just finally started to work out."
And just like that: Will's was born from an "off-the-cuff remark" made over breakfast in Chicago. The rolls quickly grew in popularity, requiring more and more space to produce enough to meet the demand.
"But I never really expected to have a restaurant," Will said.
And as it turns out, the day-in, day-out of the restaurant life ended up not being for him.
“I just want to get back to strip things down and make things less complicated and trying to get back to the core of what we were doing in the first place,” he said.
"... We’re moving all of our production to the garage side of that building. So we’re now baking out of the garage again, basically. Only, it’s a commercial kitchen, so we can still ship, which we’re going to focus on shipping a lot, and then we’ll be selling out of the food trailer."
The future of Will's
Will's plans to start back full-production by early-to-mid-February.
From the garage production, there will be cinnamon and savory rolls, as well as cookies and bake at home mixes. Bulk take-out orders can be made via phone call or Facebook message. This new production facility will also make it easier for local businesses looking to add Will's rolls to their menus.
"It’s going to be much easier for people to pick up because we’re going to be baking at the garage, so we’ve got a spot that people can pick up," Will said. "And I’ve got a slide window, so if people order four, six, 120 rolls from us they can go to the slide window on our side and pick them up, and they won’t have to wait in a huge line."
"And since the person we’re leasing to is going to be selling our rolls ... if people just want to come in and have one roll, they can do that in the dining room we created and that we love."
Some sandwiches on Will's current menu can be found in the food trailer that will be traveling around town.
"We’ll probably still be doing breakfast sandwiches out of the food truck ... and we are still going to be doing lunch, but the lunch will be stripped down a lot. Basically, it’s going to be grilled cheese. ... And a lot of people have been asking about The Scotty. We will still be doing The Scotty. We probably won’t do it everyday, it’ll be a little bit more of a special thing, but The Scotty’s not going away.
"And other than that, most of the restaurant items won’t be available on a regular basis. … A lot of our other products that people really love, we’re probably going to be doing them, but what we’ll do is we’ll say ‘Hey, this Friday we’re going to make a bunch of lemon cookies, who wants to order some?’ And we’re going to do it like that rather than have all of them available all the time, which is really difficult."
In addition to traveling around the local community, the trailer will also be traveling around the state.
"We don’t want to park it permanently because then again we’ve lost the ability to go other places and visit other towns," Will said. "We’re going to try to find spot here in Hot Springs, one or two places we can kind of bounce around at.
"You know, a lot of people didn’t want to come to the shop because it was downtown, and downtown can be a pain in the ass — I get it. So, what I’d like to be able to do is we’re still going to have a slide window at the shop where people can pick up special orders from and do certain things, but I’d kind of like to have a spot that’s a little more accessible to people. 420 Food Court, we’re probably going to be popping up in there once in awhile and making appearances there. I’d kind of like to find a spot maybe on Higdon Ferry or somewhere down Central where we can hit some of the people that we never could during the day."
Trailer locations will be announced of the Will's Cinnamon Shop Facebook Page weekly.
All-in-all, Will said the rolls will continue to be produced in Hot Springs.
"I don’t see really any break or reduction in production. If anything, I think that we’ll probably be making more, but it will be easier," he said.
Meet Destiny's Bakeshop
While Will's heads "back to the garage," Destiny's Bakeshop will be taking its place in the dine-in restaurant.
"We're going to lease out the front to a girl here whose wanting to get started, so it was kind of nice to be able to help somebody get a start, because a lot of people helped us get a start in the beginning," Will said.
After working at Ambrosia Bakery for almost 14 years, Destinie Rowland and her husband Jeremy Rowland, with the Garland County Sheriff's Department, are taking the leap to achieve her dreams of owning her own bakeshop.
She will have Will's rolls, and plans to keep the "Will's Club" on her lunch menu, but Rowland's specialty in this bakeshop will be pies.
From a peanut butter pie, to an oatmeal caramel apple pie, to a lemon fluff, to a raspberry swirl white chocolate cheesecake pie — Rowland will have the works.
But it doesn't stop there. The bakeshop will also serve breads, cookies, brownies and cupcakes, along with Red Light Roastery coffee and a full lunch menu; all with Keto options.
Destiny's Bakeshop plans to softly open on Valentine's Day, and be in full swing come March.
"We're coming on with a strong team," Rowland said. "With all of us together we have about 50 years of experience. My main decorator had worked at Ambrosia Bakery also for 17 years, so we're all just kind of going in and doing it all together as a team."