SEVEN SPRINGS -- The door opens.

The inviting aroma of baking cookies triggers an involuntary deep breath.

Eyes searching for the source of the mouthwatering smell focus in on an artfully-laden showcase -- cookies, doughnuts, cupcakes, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats.

Welcome to Memaw's Bakery.

Memaw is Diane Willis, who has been cooking since she was just 10.

"My daddy was a farmer down in Newport, so mama had to help him on the farm so I did the lunch meals at 10 years old," she said. "I grew up fast. I'm fixing to turn 67. I love it."

Willis stops to check a patch of white chocolate chip with pecan cookies baking in the nearby oven.

"They're good," she says.

Willis took a cake decorating class in 1982 and fell in love with it.

She went to work at Food Lion where she did cake baking and decorating and a little bit of everything else.

Willis later took a management position with a bakery in Lowes Foods and eventually moved to Harris Teeter.

Located 302 Main St., Memaw's Bakery is the latest sign of life returning to a community that was nearly washed away by flooding from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

The small space is sandwiched between Mae's Restaurant and the temporary home of Seven Springs Town Hall.

Across the street the post office has reopened and cars are once again lining the street in front of the restaurant.

Willis arrives around 3:30 to 4 a.m. to begin baking for the day.

People were waiting to enter the bakery when she opened for the first time at 7 a.m. Saturday, March 10.

By 8:30 a.m. she had sold out.

"We had to do a second round of everything," Willis said. "Some came back for seconds. I had my brother here who is a pastry chef. He cooked and baked for officers clubs for 18 years when he was in the Army."

Her brother, Richard Willis, lives in Missouri, and just recently retired from his bakery business and had brought some of his equipment to her.

"She went home to bake," said Jeannie Stevens Barwick, Willis' neighbor who is helping out in the bakery. "He was down here baking. As quick as they were getting it in the showcases, it was gone."

Since the bakery opened items are normally sold out by noon -- helped in part by customers leaving Mae's Restaurant that normally does not have desserts.

A native of Carteret County, Willis moved to Seven Springs about a year and a half ago from New Bern after marrying Danny Taylor.

"I did a few cakes out of my house," Willis said. "I worked maybe 30 years for Food Lion, Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter baking and doing cakes. I was debating on whether I really wanted to take on this task. I said if I don't do it now, I will never do it.

"Me and Danny had just gotten married when it (Hurricane Matthew) came through here. I said oh my God, I have moved up here and it is going to flood."

But Willis said she just felt like something else was needed in the county's oldest town -- something that maybe would help.

"There is nothing local," she said. "They have to go to Mount Olive, Kinston or Goldsboro. So I said this would be a good opportunity and to help some people around here.

"I was at my grandson's house, and we were talking about me opening up a bakery. He said, 'I think it is a fantastic idea.' But I said I don't know what to call it. He said, 'Memaw you can come up with something.' I said that's it, that's what it is going to be -- Memaw's."

It was a chore getting the building ready. It had been flooded and had no hot water, and she had to tear a wall out to do the plumbing.

It took about two months of work before she was able to move in.

Her grandson, who works with a contractor, came up on weekends to do the plumbing.

Willis said she doesn't really have a specialty recipe.

"I just do it all," she said. "But I have decorated cakes more than baking. I love to do birthday cakes because I can decorate them up. I just love doing birthday cakes, especially for kids just to see their faces light up.

"I did a cupcake for a girl. I just gave her the cupcake when I worked for Harris Teeter, a 4-year-old girl, and she fell in love and started calling me the cupcake lady."

Willis has several family recipes from aunts on her father's side of the family, but she will try recipes that she finds and then tweaks to make them hers.

"I just love to play with recipes," she said. "Sometimes it works out good, sometimes not. I say, 'well, I have to go back and play with this some more.'"

For more information, call 252-560-7899 or send email to memaw