A smell of sweet comforting treats fills the air. You begin to salivate as a display of scrumptious treats stares back at you. Each treat looks as delightful as the next and the smell of fresh goods hits your nose. There’s only one place you could be: The Slaton Bakery in Slaton, Texas.
“We’re the best kept secret of West Texas, but the secret is definitely out now,” says Chad Wilson, the fourth generation baker to run The Slaton Bakery.
Chad along with his parents, Sherrell and Robin Wilson, have continued their family business by baking the best treats in West Texas since 1923. At the bakery, a steady flow of customers flock from dawn until closing as freshly baked goods are set out and then promptly purchased.
“Bakeries like this aren’t around anymore,” Wilson said. “They’re a lot of other bakeries that make cakes and donuts really well, but nothing quite like ours. People travel from all over to have a taste of our product. We’ve had people form every state in the nation and at least 54 different countries.”
But a couple of items make The Slaton Bakery particularly special: their gingersnaps and vanilla wafers. The recipe used to make the cookies has remained the same as it has been passed down from generation-to-generation, containing only the freshest ingredients that Texas has to offer.
These two items happen to be a specialty of the bakery and have helped spread The Slaton Bakery name. These gingersnaps and vanilla wafers were not always the focal point like they are today. At one time, these wafers were just a popular item of The Slaton Bakery, until their untapped potential was realized.
We’re the best kept secret of West Texas, but the secret is definitely out now.
“We had people driving for more than two hours in every direction and then buy everything we had,” Chad said. “It really made us think, ‘How many grocery stores are they driving past just to come get this one product?’”
With this recognition, the Wilsons began to search for support of the product.
However, the wafer was no overnight sensation. The company was turned away many times. Investors did not believe the cookie would profit against competing brands.
After several pursuits, the Slaton Bakery had landed a store willing to place their vanilla wafer on their shelves. Soon, the Honey Glazed Ham Company in Lubbock began selling the wafer.
“They sold quite a few,” Wilson said.
Shortly after, two small grocery stores in Tahoka and Idalou, Texas, and the Drug Emporium of Lubbock followed suit each having great success with wafer sales.
The homemade vanilla wafer sales had began to rise, and larger grocery chains began to notice. Finally, The Slaton Bakery was able to put a foot in the door with United Supermarkets.
Once the United Supermarket chain began to put the product on their shelves, The Slaton Bakery vanilla wafer began to expand its name. The wafer surpassed the sales of other competing brands as its popularity with local consumers increased.
Perhaps one of the best situations for The Slaton Bakery was the account of the cookie practically selling itself.
“GO Texan had a booth at the state fair,” Wilson said. “And one of the vice presidents from HEB had went through and bought a bag of wafers, and she fell in love with them. She put them on HEB’s cookie buyer’s desk and said, ‘Find out how to get these guys in our store!’”
After The Slaton Bakery had landed their first few stores, they knew they had to expand their production and space.
“ We simply didn’t have enough room,” said Wilson. The bakery had purchased a local building that would accommodate to their needs. They were able to set up their new cookie factory just down the road from the main bakery and begin production.
“At first, we would only go down to the cookie factory once or twice a week,” Chad said. However, once the bakery had arrangements with two major grocery stores, full-time positions were appointed to maintain orders.
The bakery not only makes its cookies by the thousands, but they also package all of their goods. Once the cookies come out of the oven and finish cooling, they begin their journey of the packing process. With the bakery fully equipped of every necessity, the cookies travel up a conveyer belt where they are held until they are evenly weighed and distributed into the famous Slaton Bakery cookie bags. Next, they seal the bags, box up the cookies and begin to build a pallet for shipment.
With production in line and stores placing The Slaton Bakery cookies on their shelves, the delicious treat can now be found at any HEB or United Supermarket, stretching to all store locations from the Texas Panhandle down to the Texas Pecos Valley.
Currently, the bakery is still filling many orders and maintaining the workload well.
“Our thumb-print cookies are our most popular seller here, and we have talked about it many times,” Wilson said. “But the logistics are much different. So for now, we will stick with what we have.”
Today, The Slaton Bakery remains one of the most valued bakeries, not only on the South Plains, but throughout the country. When entering the bakery, to the left sits a registry containing signatures from all over. Individuals passing by Slaton will detour just to see if the Slaton Bakery lives up to its well renown name.
“We have had a couple make a day trip coming all the way from Corpus Cristi just to have our wafers and see what we were really all about,” Wilson says.
This small town sensation has become more than just a bakery. It has become a staple, proving that mom and pop stores remain relevant. The Slaton Bakery Wafers continue to have success among consumers, justyfing that homemade cooking and 93 years of tradition remains strong.