In the old normal, Kevin and LaDonne Wenzel welcomed a steady flow of visitors to their Hico chocolate shop and gift boutique. The husband-and-wife team have built a sweet following since opening Wiseman House Chocolates in a renovated 1903 Queen Anne cottage in 1996.
Foot traffic has slowed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but after operating with reduced hours for a few months, the shop is now open again daily. “Guests are not making their long-range trips today, but staying close to home,” Kevin says. “We are seeing lots of friends and longtime customers who are locals.”
Kevin’s team of six has actually increased production in the pandemic age, creating large batches of specialty treats in a dedicated chocolate studio that occupies a century-old building in downtown Hico. The workshop uses organic, fair-trade, gluten-free ingredients—including chocolate from Belgium and Venezuela—and local cream. Popular favorites include the Wild Woman Truffles, TX Whiskey Truffles, Cappuccino Crunch bark, and chocolate-dipped orange peel.
“Whether times are happy or sad, people love chocolate, and this time is no different,” Kevin says. “The higher the stress, the more we want comfort over adventure. Familiar things like caramel turtles called Pecan Clusters, butter-rich Almond Toffee, and fresh chocolate truffles continue to be the best sellers.”
Wiseman House ships chocolates to every state except Hawaii. Kevin says Texans continue to be their top customers. The online store, which ships chocolates overnight in cold packs, is busier than ever and has almost made up for the loss in foot-traffic business.
Meanwhile, when the time is right and pandemic pressures ease, tours of the Wiseman House chocolate-making studio will resume (perhaps in 2021), and Kevin’s imagination is ready to fly high.
“New items with exotic twists will have to come after we all settle down from these strange times,” he says. “I refuse to believe this is our new normal. Good times are coming, and new things, too. I have been playing with marshmallow and grown-up candy bars and having fun updating old favorites with great quality ingredients.”
When shoppers are ready to travel again, they’ll find the Wiseman House’s cozy rooms filled chockablock with chocolates and much more.