CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A visit to the Spring Hill Pastry Shop will have you wondering who is smiling more, the customers or the employees.
"This is one of those places that you hope you'll get locked in to and can't get out," regular customer Jeff Winter, of Spring Hill, said with a grin in the standing-room-only bakery.
Behind the colorful filled bakery cases are four smiling clerks eager to take orders and three cake decorators making amazing-looking sugary creations.
"I enjoy seeing the kids' faces when they pick up their birthday cakes and when the brides see their cakes and they are so excited. This is my art. My mother is an artist and I guess this is my way of showing my artistic talent," said a smiling Dawn Bradshaw, the head decorator and store manager. Bradshaw is a 20-year employee of the business.
"I've been coming here a long time. I get all the goodies, cakes, pies, little bit of everything," Erma Raynes said with a smile as the Spring Hill woman lifted two large white bags emblazoned with a pretty cake and heart logo.
The Spring Hill Pastry Shop has been in business for 65 years. Robin Williams, the owner, will soon be celebrating his own anniversary with the business this year -- 40 years of employment there, 20 as the owner.
He was asked about the multiple one-way streets complicating entry to the bakery. Williams responded with a smile, "I know that people make a special effort to come here."
Williams is planning an expansion this fall that will nearly double the size of the bakery. He will also restore the original entryway into the pastry shop so that two doors will be available for coming and going.
He worked for the previous owners, Bob and JoAnn Williams for 20 years, starting as a janitor and learning the business literally from the bottom up.
Bob Williams was the son of Jimmy "Pappy" Williams and his wife, Marie, who started the cherished neighborhood business in 1948, where it remains today, at 600 Chestnut St.
Although Robin is not related to this Williams family, he shared their surname. A bond began with the childless couple when he began working for them as a teenager in 1974.
As time went on, people often mistook Robin as being a relative of the family-owned business. He said that Pappy added to the confusion when he started calling him a grandson and JoAnn decided to call him their godson.
Williams has kept it a family affair with his teenage son recently joining him full time in the pastry business. Will, 19, is learning every task at the shop, much like his dad did. He's been helping his dad at the shop on school breaks for several years. Both father and son said in different interviews, "Hard work doesn't hurt you."
"It gets more fun every day here. My dad is inspiring. I'm kind of following the road Dad did. Being here and doing things, hands on, is the way to learn," Will said. He explained that he had completed a year at WVU and decided that working in the family business and taking online courses at WVU was a better way for him to obtain his career goals.
Daughter Anna is a senior at WVU and works at the shop when she is home from college on breaks.
Elisa, 12, is a student at Charleston Catholic High School. She especially enjoys the chocolate chip cookies that her father occasionally brings home for her.
His wife, Chris, is a pharmaceutical representative, but helps out at the bakery whenever it is necessary, usually during busy holiday times.
Seventeen employees round out the roster. Roger Burdette has worked at the bakery for 26 years. Timothy Young, a baker for five years, said, "I enjoy making good stuff for the customers, and I like knowing they appreciate what we do."
Williams described his team as hardworking and said production has greatly increased in the four decades he's been there.