The sweet taste of Up North
Locally sourced produce (even beer!) pep up local confectionary
ROGERS CITY — Katherine Wilbur, owner and confectioner with Woodland Confectionary, is serving up sweet treats inspired by the local food movement.
The confectionary is housed inside Three Heart Baker, located a little over six miles north of Rogers City and where artisan chocolates and confections line the shelves. Each truffle, chocolate bar, or caramel is handcrafted in the bakery-turned-chocolate shop by Wilbur using natural ingredients.
Wilbur was introduced to the bakery’s owner, Lora Schwab, through a friend, and began to sell candy out of the shop last year. Because the bakery is only open for business during the summer, Wilbur uses the building to sell her chocolates throughout the fall and winter months.
Woodland Confectionary is currently open for business from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through Mothers Day.
“The seasonality of it works out really well,” Wilbur said. “The bakery is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and during that time, I’m really busy farming.”
Wilbur was introduced to candy-making when she began working for Fannie May in Illinois. Anytime she went to a new school or moved to a new town, she would see if there was a candy store she could work at. She said she really fell in love with candy-making when she worked at The Confectionary in DeKalb, Illinois.
“Selling a product that is really good and makes people happy is a really rewarding and satisfying thing, even when it’s really crazy busy on Valentine’s Day,” she said.
Wilbur met her husband, Zach Wilbur, who is originally from Connecticut, while they were both studying organic agriculture in Lansing. Three years ago, the couple moved to Rogers City, where they own and operate New Sun Farm, after visiting some friends and attending the city’s Nautical Festival.
“Then I got into farming, and I started thinking about how I could combine my two loves of growing food and making candy,” she said, noting she likes to grow fruits and herbs and found she could easily incorporate them into candy.
Wilbur said there is a lot of science and chemistry behind making chocolate and caramels, but she likes to “throw in the wrench” of adding as much fresh produce and locally sourced ingredients as possible. Wilbur makes an apple cider caramel bar with cider pressed at Knaebe’s Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm and covered in chocolate.
The “bonfire caramel” is a chocolate-covered caramel infused with Austin Brothers Beer Co. Milk Route Stout and cayenne pepper and finished with a sprinkle of smoked sea salt. Wilbur’s peekaboos — soft caramel topped with nuts or pretzels and chocolate — were the result of a happy mistake.
In addition to the chocolates and caramels, Wilbur makes marshmallows, toffees, and buttercreams, which are flavored with locally sourced strawberries, raspberries, elderberries, and maple syrup. Additionally, she plans to add hard candies and gummies to her business, which is a way for her to incorporate even more fruit, herbs, and edible flowers.
Initially, Wilbur said, people would drive by and see the light for the bakery on and get excited, thinking the bakery was open. She said they would walk in expecting to smell bread but see chocolate instead.
“But, luckily they would try it out, and they liked it,” she said. “That was really great.”
The business was also able to gain some exposure when Wilbur attended a Team Rogers City meeting last fall and handed out two-pack samples of chocolate to local business.
Aside from the business’ brick-and-mortar store, Wilbur sells her candy online at woodlandconfectionary.com for pick up in the store or delivery. She also has a chocolate subscription box available for purchase on the website, as well.
Woodland Confectionary is available at Three Hearts Bakery, 5576 U.S.-23, Rogers City.
Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.