Since its opening in October, the bakery Wild Sweet Williams has become a popular name throughout Harding’s campus. The shop, owned by Lisa Ford, offers various homemade pastries such as scones, babkas and kolaches, a Czech sweetbread filled with fruit, sweet cream and/or poppyseeds.
“I don’t remember not baking,” Ford said. “It’s kind of like religion is for people, you never really remember when you got it. It’s just always been there. It’s what we did in our family to bless people–baking stuff and taking it to the neighbors and to church people and to people who are sick or sad.”
When she was 15 years old, Ford was given the opportunity to travel to Europe for the summer, but her parents only allowed her to go if she raised the funds herself. With no job, Ford said she began holding bake sales in a local bank lobby. In time, she raised enough money to go on the trip to Europe, but she never thought she would make a living from of her baking.
Ford studied at Harding and got married, before her husband was stationed in Italy for the Air Force. They moved back to Searcy in 2000 where she focused on being a mom to their growing family. When a couple of her friends opened Midnight Oil Coffeehouse, Ford was asked if she wanted to bake for them on the side. She began baking for them, but still didn’t see the hobby as a way to make a living.
Two years ago, Ford and her daughters decided to start baking for the farmer’s market. The small business, Three Birds Bakery, soon garnered a large response.
“Searcy proved to us that they wanted a bakery, that they wanted baked goods and that they would buy our pastries,” Ford said.
Ford had begun doing wholesale and partnering with local businesses like Kibo Midnight Oil and Burrito Day to sell her scones when her father suggested she open her own business, but Ford didn’t like the idea of being stuck in one place.
“I liked to flitter and flutter around and not be tied down to one central location,” Ford said.
When her father was diagnosed with cancer and moved to hospice in 2015, Ford stopped baking in order to be with him. She and her sisters then began brainstorming the bakery and decided on the name Wild Sweet Williams, in reference to the wildflowers they would pick in Missouri and because her father’s name was William.
While she only planned the bakery because it brought her father joy, Ford never expected to follow through, but soon she found herself renting a space off the square and promising her friend to open just one day even though she was scared to sell retail. One day became two until Wild Sweet Williams began opening five days a week in January and Ford stopped doing wholesale.
Ford has made the business a family one, and it is not unusual to find her children, even her 6 year old, helping her behind the counter, even her 6 year old. Each week has a different set of 12 scone flavors, but customer favorites blueberry and chocolate chip have become staples.
Wild Sweet Williams is located on 304B S Main Street in Searcy and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. or until sold out.