In 2011, as we were packing up boxes to move from Virginia to Winston-Salem, N.C., I poked around the internet to see if that cozy town might need a bakery. A few years earlier when we lived in Knoxville, Tenn., I'd started a baking business—making goods mostly for a local coffee shop and farmers market. It was something I loved doing, but I left it behind when we shipped to Virginia (which ended up being an interesting yearlong detour).
This new move to North Carolina seemed like a good chance to dive back into something I could get passionate about.
But when I poked, the internet told me about Camino Bakery, and Cary—a self-taught baker who'd been making goods for a local coffee shop, and farmers market. The very year we moved to Winston, she'd grown her business big enough to spread into her own space in the heart of downtown.
I read her story. I saw the photos. The bread and scones and pastries looked good. Winston-Salem did not need me. But by magnificent and stupid luck, I got to work at Camino, and I got to know Cary.
Baking was something she'd found a knack for, but the thing she seems truly passionate about is bringing quality to her corner of the world, and building community as deeply and broadly around that space as she can. If you lurk on the Camino Bakery Instagram, you'll read that she "walked across Spain on the [Camino de Santiago] almost 20 years ago. She was inspired to bring the community, culture, and camaraderie of the Camino back home with her."
When I was working at the bakery, it had become big enough for her to step out of the kitchen and into so many other parts of the business that needed her. She built the tables where customers sit; the shelves and displays; she made deliveries and manned the farmers markets (plural); she helped start a music series/block party that runs from May through October, and which has helped change the texture of downtown Winston-Salem. And along the way she drew into Camino some of the most interesting and thoughtful people I've worked with.
It's been three years since I was behind the counter there (which I can hardly believe), and two years since we lived in North Carolina. But when I visit, Camino still feels like the home I left (even if so many faces are new), and Cary is still gliding through the center of it.
What I bought
I'm too far away to buy up cinnamon rolls or croissants (thank you, Gus and team, for your mighty lamination skills; you can swoon over Camino pastries on their Instagram). But in our home, coffee and tea are on a fairly regular rotation, so this beauty is on its way. I will sip from it. And I will think of the many years I spent glancing at that Camino shell as I served up cheesecakes, and learned how to pull espresso, and met some of the best people in Winston.
If you're in town or passing through, visit Camino Bakery and eat a croissant for me! (Flagship location: 310B W 4th Street, Winston-Salem, N.C.) If you're far away, you may find a few things you like in the bakery's shop online.
Part of the Fifty-two Twelve Project.