As I stepped into our local coffee shop to buy 10 pounds of Breakfast Blend for my coffee-inhaling son, the rich aroma of their product struck me like a Columbian hammer. It smelled so lush that immediately I thought about having Fran open up an IV and hook me straight to the latte machine. But, with the absence of anyone wearing scrubs and Fran looking as if she weren’t in the mood for any shenanigans, I settled for a French Vanilla anything.
Established in 1895, Wheeling Coffee & Spice has become a mainstay in the downtown area. After installing the Burns Coffee Roaster that was made by the Blaw-Knox Co., their product was marketed as “Dawn” and “Delmonico”.
Long before the automobile age, they trucked their brew by horse, mule, trains, and backpacks if necessary to hard-working coal miners, loggers, and the ladies who needed a pick-me-up after scrubbing clothes on knuckle-busting washboards and chasing after eight to 10 kids all day long.
In 1931 the “Paramount Coffee” brand name and a new one-pound paper bag for packaging were introduced, and the company entered the restaurant and institutional market also. Paramount eventually replaced the names including the “O. G.” label. Many people felt the “Old Government” insignia was negative at a time when a “new government” was trying to create a positive atmosphere for recovery from the deep Depression. They forged a deal with Hazel-Atlas Glass Co., also from Wheeling, which made the jars and their patented lids for long-term storage.
But during the 1930s, problems developed between Wheeling Coffee and Hazel-Atlas. The jars used in packing the coffee doubled as canning jars, and Hazel-Atlas got greedy, attempting to purchase Wheeling Coffee in one of the earliest corporate takeovers hoping to increase its own canning jar sales. WC dug its heels in, and in 1939 Hazel-Atlas didn’t renew its contract and took its jars elsewhere. Where is Hazel-Atlas today?
Who cares? I thought as I wolfed down one of WC’s chocolate muffins.
The early 1940s were a time for dramatic change. The company phased out the retail distribution of its products and for more than 50 years focused solely on the wholesale trade. In 1993, with the growing popularity of Coffee Shops across the nation, the company opened its first retail Gourmet Coffee Shop offering over 50 varieties of imported, blends, dark roasts, and flavored coffees along with a line of coffee-related products. Then in 1999 extensive historical renovations to the building were made, and a larger, remodeled shop was unveiled. Thank you, Lord. Their beans are slow-roasted, hand-raked, loved over, prayed on, air-cooled, and sometimes even talked at to get the rich and unique taste we all crave from time to time
So if you’re in town stop at the corner of Main and 14th streets, hang a right and follow your nose. In good weather you can sit outside under a spacious umbrella and obtain that European experience, minus the poodle do-do and the snotty Parisians. Here’s a tip: Come in wearing anything Steelers. Fran is the leading expert in town when it comes to the Black and Gold, and while that won’t net you a free cup, it will get you one of her heartwarming smiles. When you pay your tab check out this sign on the back wall.
I’ve lived by this motto all my life and didn’t realize I was trending until yesterday.