Celebrating 25 Years
Jenifer Dean and Norah Rogers: The Original County Hipsters… Ahead of Their Time
To celebrate a milestone anniversary for two of The County’s beloved hospitality businesses, Visit The County asked Jenifer Dean of The County Cider Company and Norah Rogers of The Waring House Restaurant and Inn to sit down over cider and reminisce about the last 25 years.
Their candid conversation revealed their mutual histories and mutual respect, and included a few choice anecdotes as well. Check out the full conversation on @visitthecounty Instagram TV.
25 Years of Stories
The County Cider Company has been specializing in authentic hard ciders since 1995. When Grant Howes took over the family orchards with a dream to produce cider, no-one suspected that he would eventually come to be known as The Grandfather of Ontario Cider. His passion and commitment to producing cider from apples grown, tended, picked and blended on their iconic farm in Waupoos led to a legacy of craft cider making that inspired a generation. Jenifer Dean has been the General Manager and Cider Maker at The County Cider Company since 2000. After Grant’s sudden passing in 2017, she has stayed true to the core values of this longstanding County business.
The Waring House Restaurant & Inn is a true County landmark, sitting at the crossroads of County Road 1 and the Loyalist Parkway. The property features a 19th century limestone homestead, farm house, stone cottage and two new lodges that together, house 49 guest rooms. It is one of the largest County inns. Owners Christopher and Norah Rogers acquired the property in 1995. They valued the property’s architectural features and the rural heritage represented by the Waring family and their lovely home. History was around every corner. The couple teamed together to develop the property as a Country Inn and at the same time valued the huge economic potential tourism represented for The County. Together they were trailblazers in the early days of developing The County as a tourism destination.
A Shared History
In the 1990s, Jenifer was working as the bar manager at The Waring House. She she remembers observing Grant’s persistent salesmanship from behind the bar. The Waring House carried The County Cider Company in these early days, and Grant would come in and buy a pint of cider for anyone who would accept one. He was so passionate about sharing the cider and winning fans. Eventually Jenifer left The Waring House to work for Grant at The County Cider Company, but County Cider has been on the bar menu at The Waring House for all of those 25 years.
Blazing the (Taste) Trail
Norah is widely recognized as a trailblazer in establishing The County as a tourism destination. She and local agriculturalist, Sue Miller, worked with more than 100 stakeholders to form Taste The County: the region’s first destination marketing organization. Through funding from OMAFRA, they established a brand for the destination rooted in agriculture, heritage, art and food and beverage.
Over the years, both Jenifer and Norah have seen a lot of change; in the early 2000s, Norah went toe-to-toe with a provincial tourism official who claimed that The County wasn’t a destination. They didn’t yet see the vision that Norah, Jenifer and their colleagues had. Now, The County welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The work they did to promote The County as a culinary destination won awards, becoming a model for destinations across Canada and beyond.
How does a hospitality business survive – and thrive – for 25 years?
Jenifer chalks it up to a passion for the business. It was exciting to be part of developing the destination, to see the potential and go along for the ride. The focus on a quality craft-made product has been a hallmark for The County Cider Company. They grow their own apples –cider-specific varieties, found internationally and planted here. Their 40 acre orchard, farm and tasting facilities offer one of the best views in The County, overlooking Waupoos Bay. That connection between place and taste is one of the things that makes The County Cider Company so unique.
The Waring House’s secret is to stay true to itself. Norah has a deep love for the historic property and celebrates the heritage of rural Ontario through The Waring House. When people tell her to “modernize,” to take down the historic wallpaper, to change things up…she holds firm. From these farm homes came great rural people who did great things. She believes the Waring family would be happy to see the property used in this way. Locally-farmed food is served in a space that honours the past while forging a new future for The County.