Will's Cinnamon Shop in Hot Springs has been open just six weeks, but its meteoric growth is testimony to the power of a hard work, a hot trend and a sweet idea.
In the first few weeks after opening Will’s Cinnamon Shop, you needed to get up before the roosters in the alley next door if you wanted a shot at the oversized hot buns.
“We've heard about it from a lot of different people and so we thought we'd check it out,” said Lilli Taylor, who tried roll and coffee for the first time at the shop on Central Avenue.
It’s taken owners Will and Katie Byrd just a few months to gone from day-job dreamers to hot bun bakers.
“It's like the best food in the world,” said Will Byrd, who loved rolls so much, he went on a trek to Chicago and hatched the idea to start his own shop back home. “It really doesn't get any better than a cinnamon roll.”
The Byrds figured out a recipe and started selling on Facebook out of their home. And then in October, they opened a store.
That's when things really started heating up with lines out the door.
“When we opened the doors we had such an awesome group of people it was amazing,” said Byrd about the rush his social media pre-sales helped create. “Our customers are absolutely awesome.”
Those first customers had to have patience. Long lines formed And Byrd undershot how much equipment and time he would need to meet the pent-up demand. He started taking reservations on weekends before getting another oven and another baker to take some of the load off his family.
But Byrd also hit a sweet spot in the market. While Hot Springs is a tourist town, much of the growth of Will’s came from locals in the off season. Those locals are changing as well.
“Younger people are moving here,” said Jennifer Schalow, owner of Craft Beer Cellar, another beneficiary of booming new business in town. “A lot of young people are opening up businesses and are really trying to cater to those millennials.”
Down the street, Anthony Valinoti knows something about making dough fast in Hot Springs. Four years ago, opened DeLuca’s Pizzeria to long lines and limited pies. He still makes only about 75 pizzas a night, but they are enough to build a rabid fan base and awards for the best pizza in the state.
He credits the environment in Hot Springs for some of his success.
“It's a vortex here. It's the most dynamic place in Arkansas,” Valinoti said. “The people that live here, the people that visit here, it's just an incredible meeting place of people in this country."
Other community leaders think the owners have a lot to do with it.
“Will and Katie are just such great folks,” said Angie Ezekiel, president of the Park Avenue Community Association. “There's just so much charisma and fun involved in those two.”
Will and Katie just blame the buns.
“If you do something, and one thing, and you just do it better than anybody else that's when people will come,” Byrd said. “If you bake it, they will come.”