Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies Founded on Centuries-Old European Techniques
Mona Hanes Templin can’t remember a time when her mom, Evva, wasn’t baking cookies in the bulky oven in their upstairs kitchen.
“The minute I was old enough, my brother, Mike, and I were helping mix up the dough – but we hated to do it,” laughs Templin, president of Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies in Clemmons. “It was pretty disgusting being a child and putting your hand in raw eggs and soft margarine.”
Cookie-making is no longer a yucky task for the eighth-generation baker who now handles bookkeeping and community and customer relations. Each year, her family’s company produces 10 million delicate crisps – ginger, sugar, chocolate, butterscotch, lemon and black walnut – all carefully rolled, cut and packaged by hand.
How It Started
Passed down from Moravian settlers who came here from Eastern Europe in 1753, the tradition eventually reached Evva, who took over her mother’s sideline business in 1960.
“I thought it was wonderful that she wanted to carry on a family tradition,” Evva’s husband, Travis Hanes, says. “I made up the dough. I looked for different markets to sell the cookies in. I would tape up the cans. I would help deliver.”
The couple sold their first product, Moravian Sugar Crisps Cookies, to local shops that shipped them under different brand names.
“(My mom) called it a tea cake,” Templin says. “Everybody used to make a Moravian ginger cookie, so she wanted to make something a little different.”
Before long, the husband-and-wife duo was packaging and selling the wafer-thin sugar treats as Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies. The ginger crisps, now a local Christmas favorite and all-around bestseller, came next.
As she got older, Templin packed tins for mail order and helped her parents in other ways. By the mid-1960s, the family had outgrown the home kitchen and moved to a roomier storefront. Besides, her dad jokes, “Everything at home smelled like a cookie, and I guess they got tired of it.”
Little else has changed over the years, except for the upgrade to an electric mixer that blends 750 pounds of dough at a time, and the healthy switch to trans-fat-free shortening. For ginger cookies, the bakers work with the dough while it’s warm; for everything else, including Templin’s personal favorite, black walnut, it must be as cold as possible. Following the tradition originally set by Evva, the employees rely on the feel of the dough to get it right.
“They have to learn that little intuitive thing,” Templin says, noting that both indoor and outdoor temperatures and humidity can affect the texture. The secret recipe is still, well, secret.
The tins are packed the same way as they were in the ’60s, with stacks of scallops, hearts and rounds in perfect patterns that brace the cookies so they arrive safely at customers’ homes.
Sixty years later, the family still refuses to mechanize.
“There’s a real difference between the way that our cookies taste and the way other people’s cookies taste,” Templin says. “I want a cookie that tastes good, that has the history and the quality behind it. I like the fact that we are unique. We may be the largest handmade cookie operation in the world.”
Another distinction that sets the company apart, Templin points out, is that a real person always answers the phone. Staff members are happy to help seniors navigate the online ordering system, which is how many customers purchase cookies. But about 55% “come out here in the middle of nowhere” to buy them in person, she says.
COVID-19 shut down the usually bustling tours, but mail orders, particularly in New York, Texas and California, have actually picked up, helping to offset the loss.
Location: 4643 Friedberg Church Rd., Clemmons Phone: (888) 764-1402 Web: hanescookies.com
Where to Buy
Location: 4643 Friedberg Church Rd., Clemmons
Phone: (888) 764-1402
“We have the most loyal customers in the world,” Templin says. “We have a customer who calls us every day just to say hello. I think a lot of them have been concerned about small businesses like ours.”
During the holiday season, the whole family pulls together to meet the demand and help the 30-plus full-timers, including Templin; her brother; son, Jed; and husband, Scott, not to mention the more than 20 “elves” who temporarily join the team. Templin’s sister, Caroline, and brother-in-law, Norian, help out on weekends while their three kids carry packages to the car and serve as “cookie tasters.” Mom and Dad Hanes pack tins and chat with customers.
Templin laughs when asked about her own cooking skills.
“I hate to cook. I hate it with a passion,” she admits. “Anything you have to measure or be precise about – that is not me. But there’s nobody faster than I am at packing cookies, although Mama comes close.”
– Nancy Henderson
1753: Year the Moravian settlers arrived from Eastern Europe 1960: Year Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies founder Evva Hanes took over her mother’s cookie business 9: Generations of cookie bakers in Mona Hanes Templin’s family 750: Pounds of cookie dough mixed at a time 10M: Number of cookies produced each year
By the Numbers
1753: Year the Moravian settlers arrived from Eastern Europe
1960: Year Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies founder Evva Hanes took over her mother’s cookie business
9: Generations of cookie bakers in Mona Hanes Templin’s family
750: Pounds of cookie dough mixed at a time
10M: Number of cookies produced each year