A skip from the Whirligig Park in Historic Downtown Wilson is a red brick wall painted with a pointing hand and a dare in giant lettering: “Treat Yo’Self.”
You want to take that dare.
Follow the sign to a building trimmed with pink scalloped awnings. Inside, white subway tile walls with a stripe of that signature pink lead to the Treat Yo’Self glass bakery case. Fresh baked artisan breads, pastries, cupcakes, and cookies lay out like a carefully curated buffet of buttery goodness.
This confectioner’s dream opened in Wilson in December 2019. The dynamic duo behind the venture are baker Greg Mason and his partner Alex Smolen. They came to Wilson from Chicago. Bringing their cake know-how and their mantra for life with them, they transformed an abandoned downtown warehouse into a gorgeous kitchen and storefront.
For them, the store name isn’t just a catchy motto.”Our bakery name is really a way of living. It’s about putting in hard work and then going to treat yourself,” says Smolen.
That’s certainly a mantra we can all get behind. The past few years of uncertainty taught us to enjoy our lives and celebrate one another. Many small businesses, like Treat Yo’Self, opened just before or during the pandemic began. Making it work through the past few years has been hard work indeed.
The gamble they took moving to Wilson and making it work paid off. Citizens of the small town took notice of the cheery bake shop that is helping transform their downtown. They’ve developed a devoted following and in turn, Mason and Smolen have dug in as active members of the Wilson community. They host an annual “Cupcake-athon” to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The most recent raised more than $3,500 and they sold more than 1,500 cupcakes in three hours.
In addition, they collaborate with Casita Brewing Company, a small business just a short walk away, that is also on a mission to better the community. Try one of Treat Yo’Self’s rye flour chocolate chip cookies. If you like it, that same flavor can also be found in beer form around the corner at Casita.
“The folks at Casita are really good friends and we’ve worked with them to make five new beers inspired by our popular cake flavors,” says Smolen. “Cake and beer that tastes like cake. We’re able to make a lot of people happy in Wilson, which is our ultimate goal.”
Mission accomplished. Treat Yo’Self has been voted Wilson’s Favorite Bakery and Best in Customer Service the past three years. Pop under those pink awnings and try the giant, gooey cinnamon roll, the shop’s most popular item. Cupcakes more your speed? Try one of their creative cupcake concoctions like margarita, strawberry pop tart, or a chocolate cupcake teaming with Cocoa Puffs.
Me, I was a sucker for a chocolate chip cookie sandwich, because of course I need a layer of sweet butter cream between two crisp, yet soft giant cookies. Moral of this story: Take the dare and treat yo’self. You deserve it.