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Father & Son: WI Cheesemakers

Sixteen years after closing down the family cheese plant, a father and son are preparing to once again enter the make room – this time handcrafting artisan cheeses in micro batches.

Dave Roelli, 61 and son Chris, 37 have nearly finished remodeling the plant they closed in 1991 after razor thin commodity cheese margins forced them out of business. Since then, they’ve operated a thriving retail cheese store near Shullsburg, and even spent part of last year successfully making cheese onsite in Darlington Dairy Supply’s modular dairy unit, “Cheese on Wheels.”

But a few months ago, Chris got the itch to make cheese again – this time in his family’s historic cheese plant. So he & dad started remodeling the 90-year-old family business. The pair are nearly finished and expect to be up and running later this summer, starting out making flavored cheddars but then graduating into original artisan cheeses.

“We’re looking at new recipes,” Dave told me today on the phone. “We’ve done mass-produced cheeses in the past – where we want to go now is to make a cheese that’s unique to us or to the area. We want to be a unique visitor-friendly experience.”

With four generations of cheesemakers in their blood, I have no doubts father & son will come up with an award-winning cheese. Yet another reason to visit southwest Wisconsin – the cheese mecca of the Midwest – again this summer.

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