The family that operates Piqua-based Winans Chocolates + Coffees traces the company’s roots back a century or so, and the now-20-store chain is under the fourth generation of family ownership.
And it’s growing.
Second-generation owners Wayne and Edla Winans owned the Winans Bake Shop in downtown Piqua from 1933 to 1946. Their son Max operated Carriage House Candies in Piqua and eventually took over the business, and ran it until 1993, when his daughter and son-in-law, Laurie Winans Reiser and Joe Reiser, bought the company.
Since then, Winans has skyrocketed from one candy store to 20 (some are franchise-owned) in 27 years, including two new stores that opened on the same day earlier this month, in downtown Dayton and in Sidney.
Laurie Winans Reiser and Joe Reiser are our Dayton.com Daytonians of the Week.
We caught up with the very busy chocolate-and-coffee company owners to get a glimpse into what their lives are like.
What’s a typical work day for you?
Joe: It’s very different today than almost 27 years ago, when we purchased the company consisting of one store and one candy kitchen. Today, with 20 locations, two major product lines (chocolates and coffee), my day is encompassed with chocolate production, coffee roasting, international travel to buy coffee and cacao from the source, national association officer duties (I’m the incoming president of the Retail Confectioners International), merchandise planning and buying, marketing and communication, employee and management development, barista work, candy sales, wine sommelier duties, community involvement, new-location development. There is no typical day on the Winans Leadership team! But it is all still fun and rewarding.
Laurie: Listening to Joe, I can attest to the fact that he can do this many things at once and do them well. My list of daily activities is much narrower, although equally varied. I visit stores to interact with employees and customers, and I handle one-off requests from customers for their gifting purposes, weddings or events. I work with Dorothy Lane Market and Miami University, which are wholesale customers, and I am an active volunteer alum at Miami University and write grants for a worldwide youth peace organization called “CISV, Building Global Friendships.”
Tell us why you decided to stay in and settle in the Miami Valley.
Joe: We were moved to the Dayton region by the NCR Corp. when Laurie was promoted from Columbus to an 18-month assignment. We kept our home in Columbus, as the plan was always to go back (we still have the home rented 30 years later). I helped Laurie’s Dad, Max, make chocolates through an Easter season, after he had experienced a mild heart attack. During this time, the love of company, family legacy, but especially the love of chocolate, took over. Now with a new candy production facility where we do tours, tastings and seminars along with creating confections from the original recipes (and original equipment), we continue to dig in. Very soon we may be expanding our 5-year-old facility that we thought was too big when we purchased it, because we have now outgrown it. The workforce in the Miami Valley is second to none in skill, passion and dedication. It is another reason we stay grounded in this area.
Laurie: It was also important to us that our children grew up knowing their grandparents, who lived in Piqua.
What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?
Managing growth with two main products, both of which originate in areas of the world where the climate is changing rapidly, and fearing more and more tariffs hamper our long-term planning. Continuing to create “experiences of place” with our products and services is something the online retailers can’t compete with. We work very hard to provide fresh and unique products and serve them with joy and compassion.
What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton (or Miami County) area?
As empty-nesters, we are enjoying taking in all the great places to eat in the area. There are too many favorites to single just one out. We are excited to watch this part of the region evolve and change as well.
What’s your guilty pleasure — recognizing, of course, that you already own several chocolate shops?
Joe: Outside of enjoying our traditional hand-made chocolates and direct-trade coffees, and the selections of wines we have in our locations that sell wine, my personal guilty pleasure is the periodic wine tastings at Jerardi's Little Store in Butler Township. Not only is this probably one of the best wine selections in the Tri-state area, but the Italian-influenced deli and catering offerings are one of my favorite places to indulge.
Laurie: My guilty pleasure is the pride and interest our customers take in our homegrown business and the positive word-of-mouth and word-of-social-media support they give us. My grandfather, who was a second-generation baker, was right when he said, "I don't believe in advertising, I just need to throw an extra stick of butter in my cookies and my customers will sell my product for me." And I feel the same way in that if we create the best-quality chocolates and coffees available, our customers will do the rest to make our business successful.
What inspires you about the Dayton area?
Joe: Dayton and the Miami Valley is the epitome of continued hard work and rebirth. When we relocated here, there were five international corporate headquarters with thousands of professional and highly paid jobs. As we all know, those are all long gone, but the Dayton can-do spirit lives on, and the region thrives. Our tremendous growth over the past 27 years has almost all happened in the Miami Valley. We are are proud to be part of this hard-working, forward-thinking community and look forward to continue to thrive along with the region.
Laurie: The wonderful, caring people who live and work here.