• 55°

Back home and… Baking to her heart’s content

By Lynn J. Richardson
When Irene Wanner decided to move to Texas in 2017, plenty of local folks were sad to see her go.
The popular baker, a native of Karlsruhe, Germany, had produced delicious and unique pastries, quiches and muffins for the patrons of downtown Elizabethton’s Coffee Company for 15 years and she was sorely missed.
But guess who’s back?
After nearly four years, Wanner has returned, and The Coffee Company owner Frankie Bailey says she couldn’t be happier.
“Irene had been at The Coffee Company for 15 years, and worked with the previous owners, John and Lisa Bunn,” Bailey said. “I actually worked with her when I was an employee here. Besides being an amazing baker and cook, she was a blast to work with. She is also the mastermind behind the German potato salad, the chicken salad, the scones and the cinnamon rolls — things people have grown to love.”
“I’m just honored to have her back,” Bailey added. “She could have come back and gone to work with or for anyone. It’s a blessing that she would come back to work under new ownership. It means a lot to me.”
Irene also says she is thrilled to be back in Elizabethton and baking at The Coffee Company.
“When my husband passed away, I decided to move to be close to his family and to my son who lives in Texas,” Wanner said. “But I missed my sister who lives here and all of my wonderful friends. I tried to live in Texas, but it’s just not the same. I missed these mountains.”
To describe her reception back at The Coffee Company as “warm” would be an understatement. “Oh, my,” she said. “Everyone has been so happy. It’s been like a celebration. Lots of hugs!”
Wanner joins current baker, Beth Henthorne, who has been at The Coffee Company almost from its beginning, Bailey said.
“Beth has worked at The Coffee Company for 22 years and she has had many roles here,” Bailey said. “She and Irene worked together, and so when Irene left, she took on the baked goods. Beth has always done and will continue to do a phenomenal job. They will both be baking, splitting the time with Beth keeping her Monday through Wednesday schedule, and Irene working on Fridays and sometimes more, as needed. She will be bringing some new unique items to the baked good case including more bars, biscottis, cakes and jumbo cupcakes.
“Guests may also expect to see some ‘daily specials’ such as stuffed peppers, quiches and perhaps a good lentil soup before cold weather leaves us,” Bailey added.
The possibilities are endless, she says.
“We are kind of feeling it out,” Bailey said. “It is so exciting to have her back.”