With fingerprints and wafers, Slaton Bakery serves Texas and beyond

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SLATON – Much has changed at Slaton Bakery since the Wilson family took over the operation almost 80 years ago.

It started as a small bakery serving the railroad town of Slaton, battling a revolving door on the property during its first two decades of operation and the rationing of WWII.

But the bakery started to take shape and take shape when Barney and Ollie Mae Wilson took it over in 1943.

Today, one of the oldest bakeries in the Southern Plains – and possibly the state – has expanded from its storefront in Slaton Town Square to include a nearby church and fan base. which has grown beyond state borders.

Now, the bakery that bills itself as “the best kept secret” in West Texas isn’t much of a secret.

In fact, they’re hard to miss.

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Their footprint has grown significantly in recent years, thanks in part to their fingerprint cookies, delicious treats, and the new generation’s vision for bigger things.

Products such as their vanilla wafers and gingerbread cookies are available online and on shelves in a growing number of stores, including United Supermarkets, HEB, Food King and others in Texas and New Mexico.

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Slaton Bakery had a vision of expansion

Much of Slaton Bakery’s growth is due in part to Chad Wilson, son of owners Sherrell and Robin Wilson.

Sherrell and Robin said they always wanted their son to try something else so he didn’t feel like his future was more than working in the family business.

However, Chad said, he had always felt called to work in the bakery.

“Every time I was a kid at school, everyone knew me as the kid from the bakery or, you know, the kid who brought donuts to school or cookies to the party and all that.” , did he declare. “People have kind of always associated me with it, and I’ve always liked it – bringing people joy.”

Biscuits await customers at the Slaton Bakery in Slaton on June 24, 2021.

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After graduating in finance from Texas Tech, one of the things he wanted to do at the bakery was put their vanilla wafers on grocery store shelves.

Chad said customers would come for miles and come from different directions to pick up their vanilla wafers and other products. They thought this was unusual as there are many brands of boxes in the store.

“Like, why would they go so hard to pick up our vanilla wafers?” ” he said.

They started asking customers what sets their wafers apart.

Ryan Magallanes mixes dough behind a balancing beam scale at the Slaton Bakery in Slaton on June 24, 2021.

Customers, Chad said, told them they liked their strong vanilla flavor, resistance to banana pudding recipes, and lack of preservatives.

“And so, we thought, ‘Dude, if you have to drive a couple of hours just to buy these cookies, then surely there are some people in the grocery store who would love to buy them,'” said Chad.

The inspiration for the bakery to grow also came, in part, from salsa.

Chad Wilson said Slaton-based Kylito’s Salsa is owned by friends of the Wilson family and that they have found success distributing their products to United supermarkets and other grocery stores. After visiting them about his idea of ​​bringing vanilla wafers to grocery stores, they mentored him through the process.

Amber Davis, 8-year-old daughter Alice and 10-year-old daughter Clara look at baked goods at the Slaton Bakery in Slaton on June 24, 2021.

Spread the word across Texas

They started with just the stores in Lubbock and the South Plains, then expanded to stores in Abilene, Amarillo, Metroplex and beyond.

“We just picked one small region at a time,” Chad said, adding that they have since become one of United’s best-selling cookies.

Slaton Bakery’s vanilla wafers and gingerbread cookies are now available at 64 United Family stores and are often featured in over 180 HEB supermarkets and a variety of other small chains and stores.

United’s general merchandise sales manager Mike Osornio said the company has had a strong relationship with Slaton Bakery for nearly a decade.

Wrapped vanilla wafers at Slaton Bakery in Slaton on June 24, 2021.

Osornio said that in 2013, when he was a Category Manager and had just taken over the cracker category, they had a meeting with Chad to talk about their products.

Chad brought in samples of his vanilla wafers – taste was a big part of the conversation and they quickly hit it off and came up with a marketing strategy.

Osornio said he thinks a lot of the success of the products is straightforward.

“No. 1 is local. No. 2 is unique. No. 3 is a great product,” he said.

Slaton Bakery now bakes by volume

Chad said it had started baking wafers at the bakery, but when demand increased, they ran out of room to produce efficiently.

Maybe the solution came through divine intervention.

A Christ Church building was up for sale in town and the layout and facilities were working surprisingly well for a cookie factory, so they bought it and renovated it, he said.

The cookies are made where the pulpit was and the ovens where the baptistery was, he said.

“It’s pretty neat – we say our cookies are divine,” he said.

The cookie factory produces approximately 1,500 bags of cookies per day. Each bag of cookies has a shelf life of six months.

The bakery also uses local ingredients as much as possible. The flour and eggs used are all made in Texas.

Less Cook is making vanilla wafers for wrapping at Slaton Bakery in Slaton on June 24, 2021.

A family business in West Texas

Comprising the main store and the biscuit factory, the bakery supports 41 employees.

Emma Morales has worked at Slaton Bakery for 27 years. She started out as a cake decorator, and now she is the manager of the main store at 109 South 9th St. in Town Square.

Morales said she enjoys working with people and her bosses, adding that Sherrell and Robin always treated her like family, which made her stay there for so long.

“When I started here, I was not married. I got married later and now I have two kids, and they’ve always worked well with me, like when I need to go and do things with my kids at school. They are really good at it. said Morales. “I think that’s another reason I stayed, because they treat my kids like theirs.”

Chad Wilson is proud to recall how his grandparents, Barney and Ollie Mae Wilson, met and fell in love at the bakery.

A historical marker sits in front of the Slaton Bakery in Slaton, Texas on June 24, 2021.

“My grandmother would come to the bakery to buy bread, then my grandfather would see her and he would always do her a little extra favor,” he said.

Later, they were both employees of the bakery when they bought it in 1943. The bakery was founded in 1923 – out of two other local bakeries – but has changed owners more than 10 times over the course of these two decades.

“I feel like it’s a pretty crazy time to buy a business, you know, 1943, it was like the middle of WWII and there was a lot of struggles with the rationing of sugar, of flour, fruit, ”Chad said. “That’s all it takes to run a business, but he bought it anyway and he and my grandmother ran the business until 1973 when my parents bought it from them.

At that time, said Robin Wilson, it was still a “small” bakery, and she and her husband were playing cards while waiting for customers on Sundays.

Robin said being a family business made them care about the quality of their products because their name is on the line.

Persistence, trying new ideas, and putting the money back into the business helped them keep the bakery for that long, Robin said.

It’s also part of the charm customers say they see in the bakery.

Tanner Keith, a regular at the bakery, said he has stopped by about once every two weeks for the past 20 years.

“It’s a small town, it’s local and it’s good,” Keith said. “I can’t beat him.”

Adriana Quilimaco, who works at Slaton, said she has been a regular customer for about 10 years because it was convenient and user-friendly.

That and because they have his favorite cream cheese croissants.

“As soon as you walk in they greet you,” she said. “It’s really welcoming, they make you feel good and they’re just really caring. They’re nice and of course that’s good.”


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