Shannon Willer knows how to create two things: delicious doughnuts and a sensation.
And several months before her new shop even opens, news of Swillerbees’ arrival on Granada Street where the Hot Shot Bakery used to operate has social media, well, abuzz.
Ever since the sign in the window appeared announcing that Swillerbees was expanding to St. Augustine, residents have been posting the news all over social media.
Willer said she’s already being inundated with questions about when the new store will open and with messages of support.
“I can’t believe this actually has happened to me,” she said. “I had no idea it was going to turn into this.”
Currently, the plan is to open the new location in October, but she isn’t setting a firm date yet.
The quick success of the Flagler Beach store and the fact that Willer kept meeting customers who were coming from St. Augustine for her doughnuts convinced her that she should take the risk.
“It was a tough decision to go to St. Augustine because I really wanted to be downtown, but I really want to be there for the locals,” she said. “The location on Granada was hard for me to turn away because it was kind of in a residential area.”
It turned out to be a fit for both the property owner and Willer, so now she’s concentrating on ways to please St. Augustine customers.
Jim Byles, who owns the Granada shops with is wife, Marcia, said he is confident St. Augustine will love her products.
“I think they’re going to bring a lot of joy to the area,” he said.
Getting that coveted spot on Granada Street was an exercise in patience for Willer and one in elimination for Byles.
He said several promising proposals came his way while Swillerbees was pushed to the background. But when other applicants stalled, Byles took a closer look at Willer’s operation and decided she was the best fit for the area.
“We had hundreds of inquires for the place and we were very selective as to whom were going to put in there,” Byles said. “We started out with someone that was with a franchise and we were disappointed that it didn’t work out.
“But we are so happy now that it didn’t because it would not have been the right mix for that location.”
Although the new store should open in the fall, that doesn’t mean things will be finished then.
Hot Shot, which has continued to operate its location on Cordova Street, closed its Granada Street store because of water damage from Hurricane Matthew. There’s a lot left for Willer and her helpers to do.
Willer will have her new shop ready for customers soon, but she estimates it will take her at least another six months to set up the baking apparatus in St. Augustine. Until then, she’ll just make more doughnuts in Flagler Beach and shuttle them up here.
Producing twice as many doughnuts won’t be a huge logistical problem, Willer said. She’s usually in the kitchen at 2 a.m. starting the first batch. Then she cranks out another batch later in the morning on weekdays and makes even more on the weekend.
And about those doughnuts: They draw hungry people to them because they are mini pieces of baking artistry. Just looking at them is awe-inspiring to any doughnut lover.
The flavor choices are almost endless and the daily selection is basically at Willer’s whim.
Stuffed French toast and candied maple bacon are staples, but most everything else changes day by day. On a recent trip to the bakery, Willer had cotton candy, pretzel, cookies and cream, s’mores, and others.
Many of the recipes were adapted from cakes when Willer worked for a high-end outfit in ritzy Jupiter Beach.
Although she was successful at satisfying those clients and in satiating the hunger for craft doughnut fans in Flagler Beach, Willer still approaches her new venture with trepidation.
It’s going to be a new audience for her and despite the swirling praise on Facebook, Willer has a hard time seeing herself as a culinary star even if many others look at her that way.
“I’m very nervous,” she said.
Posted St. Augustine Record, January 6, 2017, by By STUART KORFHAGE