Family owned Fiona’s in downtown Willoughby continues to brew despite pandemic | Lake County

Family owned Fiona’s in downtown Willoughby continues to brew despite pandemic | Lake County

Before she partnered with her brothers in the Fiona’s Coffee Bar and Bakery venture, Meghan Coyne Wickline was in a different field.

“We were born and raised in Willoughby,” said the manager and co-owner of Fiona’s, a Downtown Willoughby business that will be going into its fourth year in March. “My brothers asked me to join them.” 

Wickline is at Fiona’s six days a week and she always looks forward to seeing regulars. When she does not see someone for a while, she finds herself wondering where they are and if they’re okay.

“The regulars are what makes Fiona’s Fiona’s. That’s what I was thinking about this morning,” she said. “I was making a lot of backups for the weekend, but I was thinking that’s what I look forward to — seeing everybody. All the different faces. You remember people.”

Despite the novel coronavirus and “life” slowing things down, the support of regular customers remains, as well as getting a new customer through the doors every so often, Wickline said.

“It was booming for the first couple years and then March hit. It’s been tough, but we’re still here,” she said. “We were lucky enough to receive some funding and thank goodness we did because we shut down for three months.”

It would have been a challenge to pay the staff and to keep the coffee bar’s machines up and going if Fiona’s had stayed open due to the lack of foot traffic, Wickline said.

Since the coronavirus, carryout was implemented and in-house seating is blocked off. Stop signs have been put up to implement social distancing and everything is served to customers socially distant. 

“When we were allowed to open our seating, we took away half of our stools and half of our tables to space everything out,” Wickline said. “I don’t like the impersonal. I’m a people person and it makes me sad to not see people’s faces.”

All baked goods, including the mini donuts, on the menu at Fiona’s are made in house, with the banana cake still remaining a popular item and a recipe of Wickline’s grandmother. 

“I do some of it and the other stuff I don’t do, my Aunt Judy is in here four days a week,” she said. “They are homemade recipes and are literally from her little notebook, so they’re either her recipes or they’re my grandma’s recipes.

“My brothers make the bagels.” 

Having freshly made items on the menu is a priority at Fiona’s. Two of the coffee bar’s sandwiches are named after other local businesses the family are involved with, Wickline said, including The Morehouse, which has since been revamped into an Irish pub and renamed to Nora’s. The chicken salad sandwich recipe is Wickline’s own. 

“We care about it. When you go somewhere and it’s like an egg stuck in the microwave — no,” she said. “Our chicken salad — I used to make it all the time, but I don’t make it at home anymore because if anyone wants it, they can just come here and get it. We kept The Morehouse on there because the sandwich itself is popular.”

Most of Fiona’s coffee products are sourced from Rising Star Coffee Roasters. Other local businesses are also implemented into the menu, including Inca Tea, Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream and Hartzler Family Dairy for mocha drinks.

The coffee menu is switched out regularly and people still look forward to Wickline’s seasonal board, she said.

“Once I run out of those syrups, I don’t have them. I do that because then it’s something you’re going to want to come back here for again and try something different that you might like,” Wickline said. “I think the Snickerdoodle latte we make is really good. It’s made with brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Hartzler — they bring their milk out on Fridays, so we make our mochas with their chocolate milk. It’s a hearty milk.”

Before Fiona’s was Fiona’s, the building was originally a hardware store that had three floors, a dance studio and two other coffee shops, Wickline said. The staircase that was once in the building has been boarded over.

“All of our restaurants — the name has a meaning. It’s all something that has to do with our family,” Wickline said. “Fiona is my niece and she is 12 years old. Sometimes we’ll be out somewhere and people will call me Fiona and Fiona is like, ‘That’s me.’ I go, ‘I know, honey.’ “

On a good day, an average of 150 customers have entered Fiona’s, Wickline said, but as many as 500 in a day has happened previously. Lately, it’s only been 20, she said. 

“Right now, everything is cut in half,” Wickline said. “Our nights are crazy in the summertime with ice cream.”

Whether it’s a featured sandwich or featured donuts on the weekend, thinking of new things to keep customers coming to Fiona’s are thought of every month, Wickline said.

“Different things to bring people in to get sales up, but just to keep people coming in,” she said. “I get choked up because I love being with (my brothers) and doing this together. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” 

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