This is a guest post by Courtney Denning, social media manager and tour director for Winans Chocolates + Coffees.
Winans Bake Shop in the 30s
Max Winans, one of the co-founders of Winans Chocolates + Coffees, was never a fan of coffee. His distaste for it started at a young age. As a kid, he’d have to help out in his father’s bakery, Winans Bake Shop, in Piqua, Ohio (during the 1930s). One of Max’s duties every morning was to clean up spent coffee grounds in the bakery.
Wayne Winans, Max’s dad, made coffee available to his bakers, even during the war when coffee was rationed, to keep them awake while they baked throughout the night. They made freshly baked bread, whipped cream cakes, strawberry rolls, and cream puffs. Probably because cleaning up messy coffee grounds is a real chore, Max never developed a taste for the rich, aromatic brew and he was more than skeptical when his daughter and son-in-law wanted to add coffee to the family chocolate business.
Winans Carriage House Candies in the 60s
Max and his older brother, Dick, started Winans Carriage House Candies in an old carriage house in October 1961. They made hard-tack, hand-dipped chocolates and candies called Piquettes, clusters of pecans and caramel covered with smooth milk or dark chocolate. Most folks know Piquettes as turtles, today Winans calls them Wurtles and makes them with almonds and cashews in addition to the traditional pecan.
Winans in the 70s until 1992
In the 1970s, Max took full ownership of Winans Carriage House Candies and continued running the business (and making Winans Chocolates a happy part of locals holiday traditions) until 1992. After running the business for over 30 years, Max was ready to hand over the helm to his daughter, Laurie, and her husband, Joe Reiser.
Winans Fine Chocolates
In 1993, the Reisers took over the candy company, changing the name to Winans Fine Chocolates. Joe, concerned about getting a good ‘cup of joe’ drove nearly 30 miles south to the nearest coffee house in Dayton, before coming back to Piqua to work. This morning commute for coffee didn’t last long. Joe put an espresso machine in the store. He said, “Even if no one drank (the stuff) but me, it would save me time. I wouldn’t have to drive to Dayton to get coffee.”
Customers quickly caught on, despite Max’s reservations about folks in Piqua paying $2-3 for a cup of coffee. Winans officially added coffee to their product line in 1994 and Max’s insistence that “it will never work,” became a source of family jokes for years after.
Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffees
Winans Fine Chocolates became Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffees, making Piqua the first town in Miami County to have a coffee shop. Six months after introducing coffee to Piqua in 1994, Joe and Laurie signed a lease for space in downtown Troy to open a second chocolate and coffee store. Even the infamous high school football rivalry between Piqua and Troy couldn’t prevent Winans from becoming a success.
Today the company is known as Winans Chocolates + Coffees and has 16 stores, with plans for more in the Miami Valley area. In the twenty-three years that Joe and Laurie have owned the company, longtime candy customers have become avid coffee drinkers, and new coffee consumers have become fans of Winans Chocolates and other sweet confections.
Winans roaster, Brenda Cook, and barista educator, Natalie Schaurer, roast a variety of ethically sourced Arabica coffee beans in an IR-12 Diedrich roaster. Winans sells single origin beans as well as a few house blends. Winans Blend, a combination of beans from Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya and Sumatra, is the most popular of all of Winans’ unflavored coffees.
Flavored coffees also make up a significant percentage of the coffee sold in Winans coffee shops. Flavored coffees are usually beans from one particular area, rather than a blend, which are roasted and then flavored with extracts. The flavoring is added in the roastery after the beans have been roasted and allowed to cool. A little bit of extract goes a long way, only about 2 ounces of flavoring is used to flavor a five pound batch of beans.
Many of the favorite flavored coffees have a corresponding Winans candy. Ohio State University football fans love Buckeye Blend; coffee flavored with hazelnut and chocolate. Buckeye Blend’s flavor is reminiscent of Winans’ hand-rolled and hand-dipped chocolate buckeye candies. Buckeye candies, much like flavored coffees, are a traditional treat in the Midwest. A sweet peanut butter center is rolled into a small ball and then partially dipped in milk chocolate, making the treat resemble Ohio’s state tree and the OSU mascot, Brutus the Buckeye.
Other flavored coffees with matching candies include:
Highlander Grogg, Winans’ most popular flavored coffee, is a combination of butterscotch and caramel. The coffee was recently incorporated into a new candy, Highlander Grogg Creams. Available in milk or dark chocolate, this coffee-flavored cream center is recognizable by its coffee flavored chocolate coffee bean shaped topper.
Caramel Cream flavored coffee is a sweet ode to Winans’ Karamel Kisses, bite-sized caramels hand-rolled in wax paper. In addition to Karamel Kisses, the company also creates chocolate covered caramels in milk, dark and white chocolate as well as sea salt caramels in milk and dark chocolate.
Toasted Coconut is a flavored coffee with a devoted following of coffee fans. In the candy case, one can find several Winans’ sweets featuring coconut as the main ingredient: Coconut Almond Bliss, Coconut Haystacks, and Coconut Chews. Both are available in delicious milk or dark chocolate.
Max Winans, who passed away in 2008, complimented his son-in-law’s success in the coffee industry saying, “I’m glad I wasn’t in business with Joe. I would have said ‘no’ to everything he wanted to do.” After watching the company grow, Max agreed that coffee had been a great addition to the business, “They [coffee and chocolate] seem to fit together like a glove.”
Fans and employees of Winans Chocolates + Coffees couldn’t agree more.
Guest writer’s bio:
Courtney Denning is the social media manager and tour director for Winans Chocolates + Coffees. She started working at Winans when she was a high school student. On winter breaks home from Ohio University where she studied plant biology and women and gender studies, she worked in Winans’ candy factory. In 2015 she returned to Winans, first as a barista, then as tour guide and social media manager. She’s passionate about promoting her hometown of Piqua, Ohio as well as her home county, Miami County. She writes at ThisOhioLife.com and enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with her husband and their three cats.
Photos provided by Winans Chocolates + Coffees