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W.E. Made It

From automotive innovation to world renowned pizza, Essex County is known for its ingenuity. This season, we’re proud to showcase just a few of the many talented residents that personify our region’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Author: Jen Brignall-Strong
Photographer: Syx Langemann
3 years ago
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Halo Heats

Christie & Jeff Denomme Spice Things Up with Hot Sauce Reimagined

Anyone who knows Jeff Denomme knows he can’t sit still.

“I can’t be normal,” laughs Jeff. “I’m always thinking of the next thing. I can’t help it, I can’t turn it off.”

It was that drive that has lead Jeff and his wife Christie to their latest endeavour: Halo Heats, a spicy condiment company.

You might recognize Jeff as the creative mind behind The Haunted Zoo art brand, Hot Hive Creative Studio, and the award-winning Papa D’s Hawt Sauce.

While his hot sauce was wildly popular, Denomme decided to discontinue the line when he became busy with his branding and design business.

“It just wasn’t the perfect time in my life to be doing it.”

Jeff admits that Papa D’s “kind of happened by accident” and was something he had really just created for friends and family. When the idea for Halo Heats came about, he and Christie wanted to create something more deliberate that would differentiate them from the slew of other hot sauces on the market.

“One day my wife said, ‘why don’t we get this going again?’ and brought up maybe doing it in a different way.”

The couple says people tend to view hot sauces as all the same, and most end up picking one off the shelf based on the look of the bottle. With Halo Heats, the focus is on bringing unique flavour combinations together to inspire people to try something new.

“We’re trying to give you different flavours that you might have never thought of before in a hot sauce,” says Christie.

“We want to be like that weird, cool uncle everyone has,” laughs Jeff.  “Instead of regular hot sauce we have a lot of funky flavour combinations like spicy olive, spicy blueberry, hot cherry, spicy chocolate mocha.”

The couple look forward to releasing their first batch later this summer. Although they have a long list of flavours lined up, their initial launch will include just three: red pepper, mango pineapple, and their flagship sauce, spicy pickle.

“There are so many different applications for it,” says Christine. “Burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, sandwiches. People are excited to put it in their Caesars for the summer, too.”

Some flavours will be available year round in their everyday product line-up, while others will be seasonal or special limited releases.

“We have all kinds of strange flavour combinations we’ll be trying,” says Christie. “We’re not afraid of any ingredients. We’re inspired by a lot of different fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t normally see in hot sauces or any condiments for that matter.”

Inspired by nature also means no added sugar or artificial ingredients. All Halo Heats products are also gluten-free.

“You add enough sugar and anything tastes good,” says Jeff. “Not adding it forces you to get even more creative.”

“When we are able to achieve those flavour profiles, we’re very proud,” says Christie. “We really enjoy playing around in the kitchen.”

Halo Heats will be available for purchase online at www.haloheats.com and at many of the local retailers who previously carried the Papa D’s brand. The couple are also pursuing selling it on Amazon.

“We want to make it so that anyone anywhere can order,” says Christie.

“Just Needling Around”

Jessica Minoski is Hooked on Creating One-of-a-Kind Crochet

When you think of crochet, you might think of a warm toque or cozy blanket your grandma made you for Christmas.

The classic hobby is hardly synonymous with video game characters like Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario, but local crafter Jessica Minoski has found a way to bring together pop culture and tradition with a unique twist. The self-taught crochetier uses her abilities to create one-of-a-kind figures ranging from gaming icons and beloved Disney cartoons to Adult Swim’s Rick & Morty.

This ain’t your grandma’s crochet.

Her interest in the craft began about a decade ago when she saw a crocheted Yoshi that she wanted to make for a friend who was moving away to university.

“I saw this Super Mario character online and I thought it was so cool,” explains Minoski. “I didn’t know how to crochet, so I went on YouTube and taught myself how just by watching videos.”

Since then, Minoski has continued to hone her skills, creating more and more characters for friends and family and giving them as gifts.

“I just kept getting better and better at it and eventually started creating my own patterns.”

It wasn’t until recently that she decided to turn the pastime into an actual business, “Just Needling Around.” At the encouragement of friends and family, she created an Instagram page and began selling her items on Etsy.

“People always told me, ‘you should sell these!’ but I never went about doing that until recently. With COVID going on, I had more time to create and it was a way to bring in some extra income.”

Minoski says the skill came to her fairly naturally, as she has always enjoyed a variety of creative endeavors. 

“I’ve always been crafting. Even since I was young I would do embroidery, cross-stitch, different things with paper, sewing…” she laughs. “Pretty much everything.”

That natural inclination has undoubtedly helped her create more realistic designs, which she says are still challenging and can take her up to 20 hours to create.

“That’s usually what’s most time consuming; making up the patterns,” explains Minoski. “I’m definitely a perfectionist. I really focus on the fine details to make everything look exactly like the characters.”

Minoski, who has a degree in Environment Science & GIS, admits that while she wouldn’t quit her day job to pursue the crochet business full time, she finds the hobby relaxing and would be open to selling her creations at local stores or farmer’s markets if the opportunity arose. She says she has definitely noticed a demand for more locally-made goods over the past 16 months.

“I think people really want to give those unique, one-of-a-kind gifts,” notes Minoski.

To browse Minoski’s latest creations, visit her on Instagram or justneedlingaround.etsy.com.

King’s Queen Candle Co.

Kaitlyn Sheehan’s Hand-Poured Creations Rein Supreme

For Stoney Point’s Kaitlyn Sheehan, making candles became a way to unwind after a long day at work.

During a tumultuous year on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the former Operations Manager of the ICU at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus needed a way to de-stress.

“A bubble bath just wasn’t cutting it,” she laughs.

Over the past 16 months, Sheehan says she’s tried numerous coping techniques like yoga and meditation, but hand-pouring candles was the hobby that brought her the most relief.

“This has been the one that I’ve seemed to really enjoy the most,” she says. “I’ve always been a crafty person.”

After a lot of research and reading, she began playing with fragrance combinations and finding the right wicks and vessel sizes.

“It was a lot of trial and error. It was kind of a science experiment that piqued my interest.”

Once Sheehan perfected her formulations, she began gifting her creations to friends and coworkers.  As more of her creations stockpiled at home, Sheehan’s fiancé suggested she turn her hobby into an actual business.

“My fiancé really liked my idea for branding and suggested that I try selling them.”

And so, in early 2021, King’s Queen Candle Co. (a play on her fiancé’s last name, King) was born.

“I sold a few and the demand just started growing,” Sheehan recalls.

Currently, King’s Queen Candle Co. offers eight scents available in three different size options. Sheehan has also added citronella candles to her lineup for the summer season.

All of her creations are made from all-natural soy wax. Fragrances are sourced from a supplier in Ontario and are non-toxic, free of parabens and phthalates, and skin safe.

“I wanted to create something that was minimalist and all-natural,” says Sheehan, noting that her current best-selling scent also happens to be her personal favourite, Muskoka Lakes.

“It really has a fresh scent to it,” she explains. “Burning it really brings us back memories of our cottage. A lot of the scents I’ve chosen are linked to experiences that I’ve shared with our family.”

That family time is something Sheehan holds dear, and has inspired her to take a step back from her position at the hospital. Recognizing that life is too short, she recently resigned and plans to spend the extra time with loved ones, complete her Master’s thesis in Nursing Leadership, and growing the candle business.

“I’m still very passionate about healthcare, but right now I’m telling people, ‘I have to take a step back to take a leap forward,’” says Sheehan.

Currently, King’s Queen Candle Co. items are available to purchase through her Instragam page or on her website, www.kingsqueencandle.com. In the coming months, she plans to branch out with corporate gifting options and possibly selling at local retail locations.

Sheehan is grateful for the support she’s received from friends and neighbours thus far and is proud to be a part of a strong community of entrepreneurs.

“I love that the culture here is to support local,” says Sheehan. “You really feel like you have a whole town behind you.”

Hawksview Honey

Dale & Kim Wright Enjoying the Sweet Life in Harrow

Dale Wright has deep roots in the county. Growing up on a farm, his parents bred racing horses, while his grandfather lived next store raising livestock and his uncle farmed the land.

“My passion has always been out here in Harrow,” explains Wright.

As an adult, Dale discovered another interest that would transform his childhood home and bring him an even deeper appreciation for nature: beekeeping.

“I saw someone with bees at the Harrow Fair and became fascinated,” explains Wright. “At the time, I was living in the city, so it wasn’t possible to really do anything with it.”

Upon moving back to the family farm in 2017, pursuing the hobby became more feasible.  Wright’s interest was reignited one day as he saw a man removing a swarm of bees from a stack of pallets behind his workplace.

“We all sat and watched; it was really interesting,” he recalls. “I ended up speaking with the gentleman, who was running a class about bees that weekend.”

After attending the seminar, Wright and his wife purchased their first two hives.  Now just a few years later, Dale and Kim tend over 105 hives on their three acres of land. Each fully-working, mature hive produces roughly one hundred pounds of honey each year.

“Kim is just as passionate as I am about the bees,” says Wright. “Everything she plants in our gardens is for the bees at different times of the season. It’s quite amazing what she does.”

In 2019, the couple, together with Dale’s twin sister Donna and her husband Keith, opened Hawksview Honey. The name is a tribute to Dale and Donna’s late father, who loved watching the many hawks that nested at the nearby Holiday Beach conservation area.

In addition to selling the unpasteurized honey they collect from their bees, the family also sells reusable beeswax food wrap, honey-based skincare products, gift baskets, and supplies for fellow bee hobbyists and enthusiasts.

“Anything to do with honey,” he says.

Beekeeping has been a life changing experience for Wright, with many lessons (and quite a few stings) along the way.

“When I first started I was going to change the whole bee industry and change the world,” laughs Dale. “The most important thing I learned is that bees have been around for millions of years and we just need to let them be wild.”

To learn more about Hawksview Honey, log on to www.hawksviewhoney.com or visit their retail location at 2017 Concession Road 2 in Harrow.

14th Coffee Co.

Warren Rutgers Brews Up a Unique Coffee Experience

At The 14th Coffee Co. in Essex, Warren Rutgers specializes in quality coffee blends. However, it’s his unique tour and tasting experience that has captivated both locals and travelers from across the region.

“It’s not a café; we are a roastery,” explains Rutgers. “We show our guests how we roast our beans from green to poured out hot.”

The concept was first dreamed up in 2016 when Rutgers, a real estate agent, was renovating a 100-year old barn on his 2 acre property. During the process, someone suggested that he turn the barn into an AirBnB rental.

At that same time, a friend who was living out in Victoria, British Columbia encouraged him to fly out for a visit and experience the exciting new coffee culture that was emerging.

“I saw them all roasting specialty coffee, and all the little shops and I said, ‘I’d love to do this back home with my bed & breakfast.”

After some research, Rutgers purchased a commercial grade Diedrich Roaster, obtained his roasting certification, and began creating a variety of roasts. The 14th Coffee Co. officially opened in June 2017.

“I love coffee. It’s always been a part of my get-togethers with friends and family,” he says. “I would try different roasts from around Canada and I really enjoyed it. The natural next step for me was roasting my own.”

The 14th Coffee Co. offers a variety of specialty roasts including their House Dark Roast, Caza Espresso, and Essex Medium. They also currently feature a single origin light Brazil, cold brew, and a popular decaf blend. All are specialty grade, with many that meet organic and fair trade standards.

The tour aspect of the business launched just over a year ago. During the experience, Rutgers and his head roaster Nathan Flood walk guests through the art of creating, explaining the various roasting methods while they sip on their fresh creations.

“It’s more of a cultural tasting experience than a traditional cupping,” says Rutgers. “We do three roasts: a French press dark with croissant, a Dutch style medium pour over with stroopwafel, and an affogato (espresso poured over ice cream.)”

The experience also includes a light meal and a tour of the grounds, where guests can take photos amid the barn, greenhouse, and gardens. At the end of the tour, people leave with two pounds of coffee.

“We’re the only (coffee) experience in the area,” says Warren. “It’s been very well received. People love chatting with Nathan also; he’s a big part of the business and our guests really enjoy his company.”

Rutgers says roasting coffee is a labour of love and is proud to be part of Essex County’s blossoming coffee culture.

“We’re growing a lot actually,” Warren says of the local scene. “There are a lot of people drinking terrible coffee, and we’re all working to change that.”

The 14th Coffee Co. is located on the 14th Concession in Essex. For more about their coffee, check them out on Facebook or Instagram or visit their AirBnB site to book a tasting experience.

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