Winans opens Iowa City store

BY BEN MARKS | NOVEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Over the smells of creamy chocolate and roasting coffee beans, excited chatter filled the tiny shop.
Winans Fine Chocolates and Coffees, a fourth-generation family-owned store, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to commemorate the opening of its 13th location on 470 First Ave., Coralville.
The newly opened Winans is the first one in Iowa, with the others being based in Ohio.

The storeowner Cindy Riley lived in Ohio for many years but grew up in Iowa City and attended West High, and she said she chose the Iowa City area because of its connections to her past.

“I’ve been off working in corporate America for 30 years, and I thought it was time to come home,” she said. “They have great product, and I enjoyed it in Ohio, and so I thought I’d bring it back with me.”

A family business since the late-1800s, Riley said Winans first opened as a candy and baked goods shop before transitioning in 1961 to making chocolates. It added coffee in 1994.

Although Riley is not a member of the Winans family, the Winans operate six of their 13 stores.

Riley said one of the reasons she chose Winans to franchise with is the heavy involvement the current owners, Joe Reiser and Laurie Winans-Reiser, have in the business.

In keeping with this close involvement, Winans also has a private line of chocolate known as Meso Cacao, which is harvested and exported from Nicaragua, to be sold specifically in Winans stores.

Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth, who attended the event, said the atmosphere and unique goods available surprised him.

“We have lots of different places for people to shop in Coralville, but nothing like this,” he said.
Riley said the reactions from the community so far have been very positive, especially in regards to the shop’s unique single origin coffee lines.

Single origin coffee, Riley said, is specialty coffee that comes from a single region or plantation, such as its Monsooned Malabar. Those coffee beans are unique to the Malabar Coast in Karnataka, India.

Riley said it can be hard to find single origin coffee because once that region stops making and distributing coffee for the season, there is no other source for it.

Maggie Opiol, one of the five store employees who have worked for the Coralville Winans since it opened three weeks ago, said her experience has so far been great.

“The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed,” she said. “I used to work in a coffee shop, so I have a little experience, and it’s nice to get into it.”

Opiol said the coffee is a familiar scene, but the chocolate and coffee sources and types Winans sells are completely different.

“It’s more conscientious here, with the single origin and fair trade, which is important to me,” she said, referring to the several lines of fair trade and organic chocolates and coffee Winans sells.

Jillian Miller, an ambassador of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce who attended the event, said Winans is an important addition to the area because of the store’s local connection.

“Cindy is really enthusiastic to be here and give back to the community in different ways,” Miller said. “I’m excited to see her partnerships in the community grow as she opens her doors.”

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