It’s a sunny Saturday, and Gwen Workman moves around her shop, Wooden Spoon, with the ease of a seasoned hostess. She divides her time between chatting with old friends who have stopped by for a visit and answering questions from new customers. The shelves are neatly lined with Scandinavian goodies, and she knows the story behind each one. There are homemade ginger cookies, ribbons of salty licorice, and wooden toys and gifts all carved by hand. Ever wonder what Vikings ate for dinner? There’s a cool cookbook that will tell you.
Of Norwegian and German descent, Gwen chose her store’s name from the Scandinavian tradition of taking a spoon to another’s house when invited for dinner. She quickly realized, though, that many of her customers — homesick for their native Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland or Denmark — wanted more than food and gifts. They wanted the experience of being back home. These days, her one-of-a-kind store combines a gift shop, bakery and grocery, as well as language and folk painting lessons. It’s a Scandinavian cultural center smack-dab in the middle of Cowboy country.
It seems there’s a story to go with every tradition inside Wooden Spoon, and the shop itself is no exception. In 1992, she bought and restored the current location, which also happens to be Plano’s oldest home. While bringing her own heritage to life, she’s helping preserve the local one, too. She makes it look easy, but as anyone who’s ever tried to start a business knows, it’s not for the faint of heart.
What’s helped her succeed where others might have failed? It’s all in her approach to seeing a need and filling it. In the early days, her customers started bringing in tin cans and wrappers to show her what they were missing from home, so she’d stock the shelves with a case or two. If more people liked the item, she’d continue buying it. That’s how she’s found the perfect mix of merchandise.
Years ago, a lady named Stella became well-known for a cookie party that she hosted for a group of ladies made up of The Norwegian Society, her church friends and neighbors. But, after 35 years, she told Gwen the tradition couldn’t go on, because she didn’t have a place to host it. Gwen had just opened her Plano business, and offered, once again, to fill the void. Stella’s first cookie party at Wooden Spoon was a huge success. Stella is gone now, but her cookie party lives on to this day. This year, it will be held on December 13. “It’s more than just a cookie party,” says Gwen. “It’s one of the happiest days of the year.” As with all events at Wooden Spoon, everyone is welcome.
Back in 1992, when she was deciding whether or not to buy the place, Gwen stopped and said a prayer outside. She asked God that if it was meant to be, to please let her know. Later, she was digging around in back of the building, and she unearthed a traditional Swedish toy. She had the answer she needed.
It really does seem to be a place that’s heaven sent. Just try a ginger cookie. I have no doubt you’ll agree.
Wooden Spoon Website >