Hook & Ladder Coffees & Wine Company is the first urban winery in Wichita Falls. They are located at 616 7th Street in the downtown area. They also roast coffee which they sell in their store. And don’t forget the flat-breads with the original recipes such as taco explosion.
The business is owned by Bill and Lauri Weske with Jon and Pam Reese. “I was on the fire department for 33 years, and my partner is still on the fire department,” Bill said. “I never would have thought I would be in this kind of business when I retired, but it is all working out well. And our wives are excited and very helpful with everything that goes on around here.”
This all started with the owners roasting coffee and selling it. “That was our first step into the retail type business, and that started getting pretty successful. We started selling coffee to the 8th Street Coffee House and a couple of restaurants,” Jon reminisced. The partners then started selling their coffee at the Farmer’s Market and at fairs.
They were looking for a building downtown when they “stumbled” across the building they are in now. They loved the building and bought it. Then came the dilemma of what to do with the building besides coffee. “All of us like to visit wineries here and there, and Jon came up with the idea to open a winery,” Bill explained. “Jon is the kind of guy that gets something in his head and he goes full bore, and you just have to hold on. We started cleaning up the building and looking at the prospects of becoming an urban winery.”
They started working with some companies in west Texas and decided on a company to do business with, Texas Wine Works. It turned into a month-long project to decide what kind of wine they wanted to offer.
“That took a lot of wine tasting between the partners, which is tough work,” Bill said with a chuckle. “We developed a selection of wines we wanted to offer from the dry reds all the way down to the sweet wines and everything in between. We would have them change or tweak it for us, and from the time we started doing that ourselves to where we are now; we have created a really robust selection of wines that people seem to enjoy.”
“We have approximately 20 different kinds of wine. There is a bottle of wine somewhere on that wall for anybody, even if they aren’t a wine connoisseur or wine drinker, and they will find something that will appeal to them,” Bill guaranteed.
The building took a lot more time to get ready, in fact, it took a year. Now it is funky and chic at the same time, with a section with couches and chairs and interesting rugs. “The response has been overwhelming to tell you the truth. Walking down the street with a Hook & Ladder shirt on, people have stopped me and said, ‘Oh man I have been to your place. I love it!’ It is a good feeling,” Bill said with a smile. “We are getting a lot of people coming in here for the first time and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was here.’ I attribute that to all the work we put into this building and our great staff.”
“It is kind of a family affair,” Bill said. “We are family owned, and we are in the customer service business. We have great service, great food and a great atmosphere so people can enjoy coming in and visiting with each other. We keep getting compliments, and the Good Lord has blessed us with people who keep coming here and brag about their experience.”
Bill also brags on the food, and they certainly have some interesting combinations of flat bread. Bill says that Jon is the creative one that usually comes up with a lot of ideas on the food. “Collectively, we have come up with a pretty good list of flat breads that include brussel sprouts and bacon. There is something about the combination of brussel sprouts and bacon on a flat bread that is really good. We have a taco explosion flat bread with Fritos and jalapenos. We also have vegan selections,” Bill said proudly. “We are always trying to offer up something new with the wines and the flatbreads”.
Coffee is roasted about once a week in a big orange roasting machine, and while they serve coffee, Bill said that they don’t serve any “lattes or fancy coffees.” However, you can purchase the freshly roasted coffee in bags to take home.
The Hook & Ladder also host events and the winery can be rented out for parties. The building can be rented on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday when they are usually closed for business. Their operating hours are Wednesday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday they are open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday they are open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
“We are so happy to be part of downtown right now. It is such an exciting place to be. People are excited about being downtown,” he stated. With the location, comes a lot of history. It was built in 1884 with a dirt floor. The “new” floor was added in the 1930’s and it still remains. There is a drain hole from the bath area of the building that people off the train and cowboys took advantage of. Bill says that the building was in the train depot square. It was a saloon most of its life. Some of the older patrons of the Hook & Ladder remember it as a bar named Tootles. “We have old police officers come in and say that you could expect to either fight your way in or fight your way out. We have a list on the wall of all the different businesses the building has been. A lot of people reminisce about it,” Bill said. But the new and improved building is a great place to meet friends and enjoy each other’s company, as well as the bonus of great food, coffee, and wine.