Stop and think: where can you get a macaron in Durham?
A few big-box names or bakeries that specialize in other delicacies, like Guglhupf, might come to mind, but largely, there have been slim pickings for these delicate, almondy treats in the city. Shayda Wilson changed all of that last January when she opened up Sweets by Shayda. The shop, just off the corner of Rigsbee Avenue and West Morgan Street downtown, boasts almost two dozen macaron flavors each day, as well as other traditional French pastries.
Wilson fell in love with baking at a young age thanks to the guidance of a Martha Stewart magazine and her mom, who occasionally works at the shop.
“I just loved creating something out of nothing,” Wilson said.
Today, she has the pedigree to back up her passion. Inspired by the talent and creativity in the French pastry world, she moved from the Triangle to Paris, studied at Le Cordon Bleu, and worked at one of the most famous eclair shops in all of France. This was an assigned role through the school that she says helped her better understand daily pastry production and shopkeep, although she admits that she would have rather worked for renowned macaron expert Pierre Hermé and nurtured her love for baking macarons.
After her eclair stint, Wilson found her way back to macarons when she returned to the Triangle.
“I came back in 2014 and that’s when I started my business,” Wilson said. “So I’ve had my business for about seven years, and I just built up a client base through word of mouth.”
When starting out, Wilson sold primarily at farmers’ markets, where most customers were not particularly familiar with her French delicacies.
“A lot of those people hadn’t even seen macarons before. It was a very new thing seven years ago; no one was really doing this,” Wilson said. “When I told people I wanted to do a shop that focused on macarons, they thought it was crazy.”
After lots of hard work — and a handful of conversations explaining what a macaron even is — Shayda was able to find the perfect space to open a brick and mortar shop in 2019. Unfortunately, like many other local businesses, the pandemic threw a wrench in Wilson’s plans.
“I love Durham, and I really wanted to be in the downtown area … I signed the lease before the pandemic hit,” Wilson said. “When everything started shutting down in March , that was when construction was supposed to start for my shop, so literally the night before they were about to start working on it, I called the construction company and told them I wanted to put it on hold.”
Once construction began, the project encountered a few hitches. The space was not at all developed when she had signed the lease, so construction was laborious and expensive. During construction, they discovered that the space did not have a water line, a dilemma that required a lot of time, money and paperwork to work around. In spite of the hurdles, Wilson persevered and impressively opened the shop in January 2021, just 10 months after having to shut down construction.
Now, the shop is doing well, with big plans for the future. Wilson hopes to introduce additional pastries and coffee and tea drinks and may even venture into shipping her pastries nationwide. She welcomes Duke students to stop by and even has an alum on staff.
I, for one, am at the shop more than I probably should be. The raspberry macaron cake (ispahan) could rival any patisserie in Paris, and the strawberries and cream, red velvet, chocolate passionfruit, birthday cake and raspberry macarons are some of my favorites.
“I love it when the students come here, and they are all so excited,” Wilson said. “It really makes my day when people enjoy what we do.”
Sweets by Shayda is located at 105 W Morgan St, Ste. 105 and is open 9am-6pm Tuesday through Sunday.
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