Oldest Name in Moravian Baking
History makers don't know they are making history
Nothing goes further back in Winston-Salem history than the tradition of the annual love feast service. On November 17, 1753 the first Moravian settlers arrived in Bethabara. After the long journey from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania they prepared a simple meal followed by the first love feast. One thing Moravians are known for is spreading the message to love one another, and on this chilly November evening with the sound of howling wolves filling the air, a favorite holiday tradition was born right here in our hometown that would do just that for centuries to come. Spread love and bring families together.
That’s only the beginning of this story. Just like families grow, traditions grow too, and there was another Moravian history maker born on March 26, 1897 who would bring even more charm to our sweet city—his name was Dewey Guy Wilkerson and he was our great-grandfather.
As a young lad, Wilkerson was said to have attended a love feast service in North Carolina where he met the beautiful Clara Jones. They were married in 1919, and what they didn’t know at the time was that this romance would set the table for a baking dynasty to be born.
During 1923 in Greensboro, N.C., Frank Jones, Clara’s father, sent his young sons to collect bricks to build a large commercial brick oven to bake bread and cake in. Brick by brick, the Jones brothers and Dewey Guy Wilkerson—using his engineering background—constructed a masterpiece that launched the opening of the Jones Brothers Bakery in 1925.
Dewey Guy Wilkerson honed his baking skills in that oven. He won a fruit-cake baking contest and word spread quickly about his mastery. By 1930, Wilkerson had saved enough money to open his own bakery, and he would stop at nothing to make this dream come true.
Wilkerson was inspired by the Moravian heritage of neighboring Winston-Salem. A city that was buzzing with manufacturing activity—one of the tallest buildings in the country which was the inspiration for the Empire State Building had just been built—and the local Moravian bakery called Winkler Bakery had recently closed.
In the face of the Great Depression, Dewey Guy Wilkerson made the bold move to Winston-Salem with his wife and six children and opened his new bakery in 1930.
With his family connection to the Jones Brothers Bakery he had access to key ingredients that were rationed such as sugar, eggs, butter, flour and spices. That along with the help of some of his six children, he was able to survive this difficult period. His son Dewey Guy Wilkerson, Jr. had to stand on crates just to be able to work on the maple table tops. Wilkerson built a loyal following with his kindness. Many times, he told customers with a wink of his eye, “Your credit is good. Just pay me when you can”.
Wilkerson and his family had become members of the Home Moravian Church quickly after moving to Winston-Salem. As the Moravian baker in town, he became very popular with the church elders. They loved sharing old Moravian recipes from coveted family recipe books.
In the early 1930’s Moravian baked products was one of the specialties of the Wilkerson family, and their bakery became very well known for its Moravian Sugar Cake, Love Feast buns and Moravian Cookies. This product line became so popular that they could barely keep up, especially around the holidays.
Drawing by Dewey Guy Wilkerson III of Dewey Guy Wilkerson IV. The drawing is not complete yet.
Dewey Guy Wilkerson was always experimenting with not only his recipes but also with techniques & methods to make things taste better. Baking is an art, every master baker must be equal parts scientist and magician. He noticed with his Moravian cookies that “the thinner they are are, the better they sell”. So, he started rolling them thinner, and even thinner. Word spread about the family’s unique paper-thin Spice cookies. All the while, Wilkerson had no idea that his innovation, this legendary thinness and taste, would become the hallmark of the Moravian Spice Cookie and therefore lead to Bill 394, which if signed in by the Governor will make Moravian Cookies the official state cookie of North Carolina. A bill that specifically refers to the thinness of the spice cookie—pioneered by Wilkerson.
With the reputation that Dewey Guy Wilkerson had built for himself, he was said to have become somewhat of a mentor for many in the Moravian community. Somewhere around 1938, Wilkerson met a member from Olivet Moravian Church named Grace Boose Foltz. She also entered the Moravian baking business, and they created somewhat of an alliance to last for decades to come. Together they rooted for each others success and pushed each other to be even better and for their cookies to be even thinner. They were in total agreement that “the thinner the spice cookie was, the better it tasted”.
Meanwhile, the Jones Bakery opened new locations, with one being in Winston-Salem. In their bakery there was also a business called “Old Salem Bake Shop” that specialized in Moravian Cookies and Cheese Petites that sold to many local retailers and catalog companies around the country. Paul Jones III still has wonderful memories of being taught to roll out thin cookies with a marble rolling pin. The Old Salem Bake Shop was eventually sold to Old Salem Museum & Gardens in the mid 1990s.
The Dewey Guy Wilkerson family baking history includes 5 years baking at the original Jones Brothers Bakery in Greensboro and over 80 consecutive years of baking at the original Wilkerson bakery in Winston-Salem. Baking is our family’s passion, purpose and way of life. After only a short time out of the business of selling our Moravian creations, we are back and operating out of a building that used to be one of the Jones Brothers bakeries in our hometown of Winston-Salem!
Just like our great-grandfather, we will stop at nothing to continue growing the traditions that have become part of the culture and magic of Winston-Salem. Perfection cannot be attained, but we believe it can be tasted, so we will always strive to make every batch better than our last. It’s what we call the Wilkerson Way.
We will continue to honor the Jones family, the Boose family, and the members of the Wilkerson family that are no longer with us by bringing home the taste of Moravian tradition with products that taste even better than remembered. With five generations of Moravian history, everything we make and bake by hand specially for you is from the heart.
With devotion, honor and respect since 1925,
The Dewey Guy Wilkerson family
There are more stories untold and people dear to our hearts who have been involved in our Moravian baking journey over the last century. Sending all of our love.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story. We hope to get to know you, and to bring you and your loved ones some joy this holiday season.