Le Cordon Bleu culinary graduate Shayda Wilson brings a new Parisian concept to West Morgan Street with unique European sweets and baked goods
By Hannah Lee
Like butter melting in a pan, the smell of croissants oozes into the air at Sweets by Shayda, escaping from the oven in the back of the bakery. A pair of customers, nearly 20 minutes early for the soft opening in January, opens the door at 105 W. Morgan St., Ste. 105, wafting the savory notes of baked goods out onto the street.
“We drove all the way from Carrboro,” they tell owner Shayda Wilson as she navigates her gloved fingers through 13 colorful varieties of macarons. “We were so excited for you to open.”
Shayda eagerly greets more customers as they trickle inside the European-inspired space. The second group squeals in delight at the sight of the rose-covered wall immediately to their left and at the case of Parisian treats on full display straight ahead.
Shayda’s customers’ excitement mirrors her own. She’s operated the business out of commercial kitchens and local farmers markets for seven years now. She started eyeing this new building on Morgan Street nearly two years ago. Opening a bakery was a lifelong goal, even when she worked as an accountant for two years after graduating from N.C. State.
“I just did accounting because it was something to fall back on,” she says. “My parents really wanted me to have the college experience. But this was my dream from when I was really young. I was obsessed with Martha Stewart before there were cooking shows everywhere.”
Today, the Le Cordon Bleu culinary graduate is whipping up all sorts of intricate pastries inspired by her year in France. Shayda’s offerings – from the crispy-yet-pillowy croissants made with organic Lindley Mills flour and “the best French butter Isigny Sainte-Mère” to more unique finds like the princess cake, with its alternating layers of marzipan, whipped cream, pastry cream and raspberry jam – are a tasteful reminder of why Durham was named the foodie capital of the South and why it continues to attract aspiring bakers, chefs and restaurateurs.
“I love the foodie community here,” says Shayda, a Cary native, on why she chose Durham as the permanent location to set up shop. “I felt like my product would be appreciated. I also love to be in a city atmosphere, and Cary’s not so much like that.”
And in true Durham fashion, Shayda not only bakes and manages the finances, she also designed the space. Construction started last July with the hopes of opening before Christmas. Shayda wanted customers to be enveloped in a multitude of colors, textures and patterns when they set foot inside – an intention that translates to her desserts, too. She took the intimate space with its 20-foot-tall ceilings and combined a variety of elements, from the rose-filled wall to mid-century modern lighting. She created an open concept influenced by the current restaurant scene in Paris, giving customers the ability to peer into the kitchen and observe the dessert-making process from start to finish.
“I wanted people to see me working – everyone working – so pretty much what you see here is the space because back there is just a sink,” Shayda says.
The only people behind the steel-and-glass partition at the moment are Shayda, her mom and a barista, but Shayda says she hopes to expand when there are fewer pandemic restrictions. But, for now, she’s savoring in the moment. “The soft opening went well!” she told Durham Magazine a few days later. “It was a pretty steady crowd, so I’m super happy about that.”
Sweets by Shayda has not set its regular hours, but officially opens this weekend (Jan. 15-17, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.).