In 2012 Janet Bowers retired from her long career in Psychology work and needed a way to keep busy. She turned to her love for chocolate, and began researching and creating truffles from locally sourced ingredients in her family farm kitchen.
Mixing New and Old Roots
The Hocking County company’s concentration is in chocolate truffles, but also serves up caramels, chocolate mold assortments, and candy bars. The name comes from Bowers’ great-grandmother who named the family farm Wren Valley after her favorite bird. The farm has been in the family for over 150 years, according to Bowers.
Janet Bowers was born and raised in Chillicothe. She attended Bowling Green State University for her undergraduate studies in Geology and American Literature, and Ohio State University for her graduate work.
Years later she decided to return to the classroom to earn a Doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology. She opened her own private practice that she operated for more than 30 years out of Evergreen, Colorado. She worked closely with major hospitals and court systems. Upon inheriting her family farm in Ohio, Bowers closed up her practice so that she and her husband, Rodger, could move back to her home roots.
Pursuing the Passion
To Bowers, her retirement was liberating. She remembers thinking to herself, “I want to do what I’ve always wanted to do …and that was to learn more about chocolate and do something with it.”
Bowers says after moving back to Ohio, she struggled to find the fabulous piece of chocolate she craved. So, she took it upon herself to craft her own Old World European-style artisan chocolates.
What Goes In
Bowers creates each truffle in her farm house kitchen at Wren Valley and attributes her psychology background to the playful names of each treat. The Chai Dreamer is a blend of milk and dark chocolates, candied ginger, cinnamon in local cream, and topped with organic dried sweetheart rose petals. Aztec Chili came from her deep love for central American dishes; sweet glazed oranges and dark chocolate with the kick of habanero chilies, cayenne and cinnamon create the sweet heat truffle.
“I love looking at someone’s face when they first take a bite, it’s like the sun comes out!” Bowers says.
The Woodland Creature gift box includes chocolate mice filled with silky peanut crème, chocolate bunny molds and chocolate beehives bursting with sweet, locally sourced honey.
Several friends and some contracted workers help Bowers to regularly turn out orders for weddings, showers, corporate gatherings and restocking purchase location supply. From decorating to packaging, Bowers hand-picks who helps put the final touches on the chocolates and caramels.
“It takes patience, and skill, and speed to make that work,” Bowers says. “It really took me pushing me to begin the search for the right people.”
Bowers says it has been essentially important to use locally sourced and organic ingredients every chance she gets. Snowville Creamery, Sticky Pete’s pure maple syrup and Silver Bridge Coffee Company are a few of the local vendors behind her creations.
Dozens of flavors and fillings line the Wren Valley Truffle menu, but oftentimes Bowers lets her customers call the shots.
“Tell me what you like,” she says. “I get really inspired by people who love chocolate.”
She recently had a special order that resulted in a new layered orange and raspberry crème truffle.
The Nelsonville Emporium, located in Public Square in Nelsonville, is one shop invested in selling local craftsmanship, artwork and chocolate confections. Owner Jennifer L’Heureux says Bowers is centered on local ingredients and local economic opportunity.
“She likes to make sure people can grow. She is very supportive of the arts,” L’Heureux says. “We want to support local agriculture and entrepreneurs,” Bowers says. “I go out of my way to do that whenever I can.”
The growth of Wren Valley Truffles has called for consideration to expand and open a shop of its own, but Bowers believes it would tie her down too much.
“We’ve outgrown where we are, and that’s a good problem,” Bowers says. Bowers says her success has come from an atypical business model: “If it’s not fun, and I’m not getting joy and inspiration out of the process, then I’m not going to do it anymore.”
Bowers says she is working on starting classes ranging from beginner to advanced to teach others about creating their own chocolate confections. Bowers hopes to include demonstrations on how to make the truffles, how to source ingredients, and tips for what makes a good product, she says.
The handcrafted Old World European-style truffles, along with all of the other chocolate confections offered at Wren Valley Truffles, can be found at Glenlaurel Scottish Inn, Hocking Hills Winery, Hocking Hills Dining Lodge and Nelsonville Emporium.