Carrot Tree Kitchens
A Yorktown bakery in a great little neighborhood
By Cathy Welch
Debi Helseth, owner of Carrot Tree Kitchens, was unimpressed with desserts offered where she worked. She baked a carrot cake from her family’s recipe and took it into work the next day. That was the genesis of Carrot Tree.
“Our ingredients are all topnotch, and Debi likes to say we are an all-butter bakery,” Glenn Helseth said. “We use the best chocolate and cocoa you can find.”
Carrot Tree sources its ingredients locally from farmer’s markets when possible. Their cakes, including the popular namesake, triple-layer carrot cake, are Southern specialties. They’re also in the wedding cake business.
In the 30th year, Carrot Tree’s 6,000-square-foot flagship store is located at Williamsburg’s Colony Square. Their original motel property is now their production center. Toby’s Doghouse, on Duke of Gloucester Street, is their seasonal hotdog and barbecue venue. Carrot Tree’s 600-square-foot Yorktown location is very much a satellite.
New Jersey native Susan Conlon spent 44 years there before moving to Grafton and landing a job at Yorktown’s Carrot Tree. Her first 10 years were at the Cole Digges House location before moving on to manage their Riverwalk location.
“I am a huge history buff,” manager Conlon said. “I love The Historic Triangle, so working here made sense.”
Carrot Tree employees receive positive feedback all day long, which makes it a pleasant place to be.
“We have confidence, because our food is excellent and our baked goods are even better,” she said.
Yorktown’s Carrot Tree welcomes visitors from all over the world, many who are interested in area history. Local shopkeepers and tour guides recommend them.
Carrot Tree’s Yorktown menu offers bakery-fresh breakfasts, casual cafe lunches featuring Southern favorites ham biscuits and Brunswick stew, salads, wraps, appetizers and daily specials and scratch-made baked goods.
They work with York County and their events on the Green, including Yorktown Market Days. Glenn Helseth does food demos there several times annually.
Yorktown’s Carrot Tree employs four to eight people, depending on the season.
“We are lucky to have several long-term employees, like Hannah True, who has been here five years,” Conlon said. “Our cook, Esmeralda Calderon, has been there over 12 years. She’s the backbone of our location.”
Conlon values her students who work on their breaks.
“We’ve been lucky with our outstanding York High School students,” she says. “Some stayed through college and graduate school.”
Conlon works with a number of Yorktown committees and currently heads up the Riverwalk Business Association. Yorktown’s Carrot Tree supports Natasha House and helps the Coast Guard, beginning with one free lunch during 2019’s shutdown.
“There was such a response that we kept it going for the duration of the shutdown,” she said. “Glenn made a substantial cash donation to the fund for the base’s young people.”
Carrot Tree offers a 10-percent daily discount for active-duty military and doubles that on Wednesdays. They cater coffee and dessert at a minimal cost for the local Cabin Fever Concert Series at The Freight Shed.
“We pitch in as much as we can,” Conlon said. “We’re big on donating gift certificates.”
Carrot Tree offers deals on Facebook and will offer 30 percent off to celebrate its 30th business anniversary.
Carrot Tree Kitchens was awarded Coastal Virginia Magazine’s Best of CoVa 2018 for Best Local Bakery in Yorktown.
Carrot Tree Yorktown
323 Water Street, Suite A2, Yorktown
Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily