It’s 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16, and while Wiscasset’s sleepy stores and sidewalks are just waking up, the kitchen staff at Wiscasset’s staple bakery and market have been in full swing since the wee hours of the morning, baking and preparing for another lively holiday season.
In operation for over three decades, Stacy and Ryan Linehan purchased Treats in 2006 and expanded it from a candy and wine shop into a full-fledged bakery, cafe, and market.
Stacy Linehan’s family on her father’s side is composed of a long line of bakers. Her grandmother is largely responsible for Stacy Linehan’s passion and skills, as well as a number of Treats’ most popular recipes.
“Scones, muffins, coffee cake; some of those recipes have been in my family for 60 years,” she said at the shop on Nov. 16. She described the business as 60% bakery and 40% wine, beer, cheese, candy, and other quality products. Carrying local produce, meat, and eggs, the shop has just enough for locals to find their dinner ingredients in a pinch.
Stacy Linehan grew up thinking that she would become a marine biologist, and earned bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in environmental science. She originally moved to the Wiscasset region to work at the Chewonki Foundation and later moved on to Bowdoin College, where she led outdoor leadership programming.
In that time, she would frequent Treats and imagine what she could bring to the business. When the owner mentioned that he was considering selling it in 2006, the Linehans jumped at the opportunity.
Up until recently, Ryan Linehan was the director of outdoor education at Colby College, but he has always done lots of maintenance at Treats. He now works full-time at the family business, and he’s begun learning the ropes of day-to-day operations as well as prep work in the kitchen.
“He’s always championed me. He’s super supportive of me and any of my wild ideas,” Stacy Linehan said.
Linehan herself is a champion of small businesses and shopping local, values that are reflected in her storefront and her kitchen.
“One of the best things that we can do as small business owners is choose how we are spending our money in our local communities because … (it creates) such a ripple effect,” she said.
All of Treats’ bakery products are made from scratch in the shop’s kitchen daily, and Linehan tries to use local ingredients as much as possible. This is an effort reflected in the market side of the shop, where the shelves are filled with products that were crafted in Maine or produced in a way that aligns with the Linehans’ environmental values.
“If everybody who is in a position of power had spent a year or two owning a small business, I think that things would be really different,” Linehan said. “It is a really, really demanding job, and so you can imagine if everybody got a little snippet of that, they would have so much more compassion.”
This holiday season, Linehan said that it is immensely important for community members to shop at local businesses, including but not limited to her own, for gifts and holiday catering.
Treats’ holiday menu for the winter season includes the bakery’s typical offerings of pies, scones, breads, soups and salads, as well as popular seasonal offerings like large gingerbread people (or sugar cookie people, for those who prefer less spice), mouse-shaped shortbread cookies, and fruit cake.
Linehan uses real fruit and nuts in her fruit cake, and she said that even the many customers who wrinkle their nose at the seasonal jelly-bean block have enjoyed hers.
Treats gets by with a small staff all year, despite the overwhelming amount of business it receives in the holiday season, because of its experienced and well-trained staff. Of Linehan’s bakers, the newest has been working at Treats for four years. Others have been working with Linehan for a decade or longer.
“I have a group of people in the kitchen that really know what they’re doing,” she said.
Linehan’s methodology for retaining a well-trained, dedicated staff is not particularly novel. She approaches those who work for her with empathy and respect, paying them well above minimum wage, understanding that they have lives and families, and making sure that they are taking care of themselves.
Heidi Eastman, Treats’ kitchen manager, has always worked in small, family-owned food businesses, and has worked at Treats for 15 years. She said that she likes the variety and fast pace of working for a small bakery and also the ease with which she can communicate with Linehan and talk about the day-to-day trials and tribulations that come with running the kitchen.
“I don’t have to go through five people to say, ‘this needs to change,’ or, ‘we have a problem with this,’” Eastman said.
This is not to say that running a small business has been simple for Linehan. Before the pandemic, Treats was immensely busy and she was beginning to feel burnt out. After the world shut down, the shop shifted to an online ordering and pick-up model and began offering produce boxes.
The shop received over 150 orders a week, and the outpouring of support and gratitude from the community that followed helped rejuvenate Linehan’s passion for the work.
“I guess what was great for me about the pandemic was that reminder of the integral part that this place plays in this community. I had forgotten that,” she said. “I love providing good food for the community. It’s really important.”
Tapping into her and her husband’s experience as Maine guides, Linehan began to establish a travel branch of Treats before the outbreak of COVID-19, where she took groups on food tours through Italy, visiting the vendors whose products sit on Treats’ shelves, like olive oil and wine.
Once COVID-19 transmission risk decreases, she would like to do more trips, both internationally and locally, such as paddling the Allagash River.
“Sometimes you just got to follow your passions and just try stuff. The worst that could happen is that it doesn’t work,” she said.
Treats’ deadline for Christmas orders is 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17. Orders can be made online at treatsofmaine.com or by calling 882-6192.