The Sweet William’s Smell of Success
Sweet William’s Bakery is no longer the worst-kept secret in Falls Village, CT. For the past two and a half years, Jason Young has baked cookies during the week for his wholesale accounts (including Guido’s and the Berkshire Co-op Market) and officially opened only on Saturdays to sell his layer cakes, tea breads, cheesecakes and decadent cream scones. “I make the scones with heavy cream and butter,” he says, which helps explain why they sold out every week in Falls Village.
Now, Young is baking scones Thursday through Sunday at his new shop on Main Street in Salisbury, CT, which was a failed ice cream parlor before his lighting-fast, two-month gut renovation. “People keep walking in and asking if we will have ice cream cones and the answer is no,” he says with his impish grin. “We do have ice cream sandwiches made with our cookies and SoCo ice cream—chocolate chip with vanilla bean ice cream, almond with coffee ice cream, and ginger molasses with ginger ice cream. I think two cookies and a scoop of ice cream for $3.25 is a bargain.”
Raised on a farm in Iowa, Young came east a decade ago to work in the arts after a stint as the box office manager for the Minnesota Opera. “I interviewed at the Roundabout Theatre and New York CIty Opera but I could not afford to live in New York City on the salaries,” he says. “So I got a job at Merrill Lynch. I was the assistant to 12 litigators. I did their archiving and filing. It was awful.” He kept looking for jobs in the arts and one day while Googling he found an ad for a box office manager at Barrington Stage Company. He got the job, arriving in Sheffield, MA for the very first time in the summer of 2003. “I had never been to this part of the world and I fell in love immediately with the Berkshires and northwestern Connecticut,” he says.
After the summer, he returned to Merrill Lynch (and enrolled in night and weekend pastry classes at the Institute of Culinary Education), but he yearned for the country. When he returned to Barrington Stage for the summer of 2004, he decided to stay in the Berkshires permanently. He took a job as a baker’s assistant, bought a condo in Housatonic, MA, and then had his kitchen certified so he could bake commercially from home. He debuted his line of Sweet William’s cookies (his middle name is William) at the Berkshire Botanical Garden‘s annual Harvest Festival in 2004. “The ginger cookies were a huge hit,” he says. “I sold out of everything I’d made for the entire weekend the first day. I went out and bought all the molasses I could find in Great Barrington and stayed up all night to bake more ginger cookies.” (The ginger cookies have become his signature and best-selling item.)
He soon outgrew his home kitchen and rented space from Guido’s in Pittsfield, where he started supplying all the desserts for Berger’s Specialty Foods. It was a great set up until he decided to move in with his boyfriend, John Phillips, who happened to live in Falls Village. “It was just too far away to commute every day,” he says. Young found a small space for rent tucked behind Falls Village’s quiet Main Street where he could install a commercial kitchen. “I planned to do wholesale only,” he recalls, but the residents of Falls Village had other ideas. “People just started showing up!” he says. “And they wanted more than cookies.” They wanted birthday cakes and tarts for holidays, and he reconfigured the space for retail. He expanded his assortment to include the Royal Warrant-worthy scones, delectable cheesecakes, cupcakes, brownies, and candied nuts. “The residents of Falls Village really liked the idea of a bakery in town and they have been incredibly supportive.”
Nevertheless, he knew he needed a more visible location to grow his business and when the space in Salisbury became available he jumped at the opportunity. (He plans to use the Falls Village space for its original purpose—wholesale cookie baking.) In his sunny new shop with walls he painted the color of cookie dough, he has a refrigerated display case for his layer cakes, which have cream cheese or buttercream frostings. “We make everything from scratch with fresh, whole ingredients,” he says. “We will do special orders for any occasion, but we won’t do fondant flowers and we won’t screenprint your dog’s face on a cake. Everything we do is simple, handmade, and old-fashioned.”
Sweet William’s Bakery
19 Main Street, Salisbury CT; 860.435.8889
Thursday - Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Sunday 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m