Caffeine and Cacao at Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffeehouse
By Matt Clevenger
Standing among the many uni-que candy creations on display at Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffeehouse, it’s hard to believe it all started with some homemade fudge.
Since opening in 1995, the comfortable chocolate and coffee café has become one of downtown Troy’s favorite destinations, known for their locally roasted coffees and handmade gourmet chocolates. But the Winans story actually goes back to 1961, when a third-generation baker in Piqua first started featuring a homemade fudge recipe in his family’s shop.
“My dad’s babysitter made fudge that he really liked a lot,” owner Laurie Winans Reiser explained recently. “He got her to teach him how to do it and that was one of the first things they started carrying in the bakery, a kind of fudge.”
The new addition took off and soon after, Reiser’s father opened the first Winans chocolate store in Piqua. “A big chocolate store in Piqua was going out of business about the time my dad and uncle were opening, so they got a little bit of leadership from them,” she added. “This German candy maker who had been in Dayton came and spent a year with them to help them get running on their chocolates.”
Reiser’s father created all Winans’ original candy recipes, and eventually added a manufacturing plant in Piqua to keep up with the store’s growing mail order and wholesale business. Reiser and her husband bought the company in 1993, and since then it has expanded to include two stores in Troy (downtown and inside Jay and Mary’s Book Center) and two stores in Dayton (on Miller Lane and in the shops outside the Dayton Mall). “Our son is working in the business now,” she said. “So it’s five generations.”
Winans’ main focus is still chocolate and the company now offers over 40 different handmade gourmet chocolates to choose from. “We’ve done nothing to change the original recipes,” Reiser’s husband Joe explained. “They’re still the very traditional European-style chocolates, but we have added product lines … we’re very well-known for our different caramel pieces; we have our traditional chocolate-covered caramel and we have a very popular old-fashioned Karamel Kiss which is wrapped in wax paper, then we just started doing our new salt caramel, which has been very popular.”
Premium ingredients are one secret behind Winans’ fine chocolates, offering a gourmet alternative to the poor-quality chocolate used in most ordinary candy bars. “This is high-end gourmet chocolate and it’s truly chocolate,” Joe Reiser said. “It’s 100% cocoa and cocoa butter, sugar and milk, and there are no paraffin, waxes or additives put in.”
“They actually just passed a law a year or two ago that changed the recipes for chocolate in the U.S., so that it would allow the big companies to put less cocoa in for money-saving purposes,” he added. “People say to us all the time that the chocolates they remember as a kid from the grocery store or gas station taste different to them now, and that’s why. It’s got more additives and high-fructose corn syrup.”
Freshness is also important and all of Winans’ chocolates are made in Piqua, and sold within a few days. “When you come to Winans you’re eating chocolates that were made in the last couple days or even the day before,” Joe Reiser said. “When you buy something at the grocery store, not only was it probably made six months ago, but it was probably made overseas six months ago. There are many big plants like that across Asia, where it’s then put on a boat and comes through and sits in warehouses all over this country for many, many months. As a matter of fact, you could probably find your next years’ Valentine chocolates in a warehouse now.”
Along with fine chocolates, Winans is also known for their locally-roasted, single-source gourmet coffee, which has been voted Dayton’s Best Coffee four years in a row according to Dayton Daily News readers’ polls. “We added specialty coffee in 1995,” Joe Reiser explained. “It was growing in the area, so we added a full line of coffees that were originally roasted for us in Columbus. But eight years ago, we installed our first roaster, so we have been roasting our coffee right here for eight years.”
“We roast weekly, so our coffees are very fresh, and we deliver to each of our stores each week,” he added. “We carry anywhere from 12 to 20 different single-origins, depending on what we’re buying at that time, and then we create different blends from those and we create different flavored coffees, so we could have up to 30 or 35 different coffees. But we don’t have them all the time; we switch them around.”
The company pays close attention to where the high-end coffees they use come from, and recently Joe Reiser even traveled to Honduras, where much of Winans’ coffee is grown, for meetings with several coffee farmers. “On that trip, we also began the process of sourcing single-source cacao, which is the bean that chocolate is made from,” he said. “Our goal is to create single-origin, single-source chocolates that we will process 100% from bean to bar, just like we do with coffee from bean to cup. That’s in the works, and it’s our hope that we will even have some ownership in a cacao and coffee farm in Central America in coming months.”
Right now, the company is also busy planning a new store in Columbus’ German Village, and preparing for the Easter holiday season. “Our stores now are filled with hundreds of hand-poured chocolate bunnies, which are all poured right here in Miami County,” Joe Reiser said. “We consider ourselves local. We source local as much as we can and we employ local, so not only is it fresh, but you’re playing a role in the local economy when you buy from companies like ours.”
Winans’ downtown Troy store is located at 10 W. Main St, and their products can also be found at Dorothy Lane Market, 2nd Street Market and Current Cuisine in Yellow Springs. Winans’ chocolates, coffee and gift baskets can also be ordered online at www.winanscandies.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at firstname.lastname@example.org.