If Wisconsin is known for anything besides cheese, it is our landmark roadside cheese stores. The most famous of all is the Mars Cheese Castle, located along I-94 between Kenosha and Racine.
Built in 1947, Mars Cheese Castle is synonymous with Wisconsin. A combination of cheese store, restaurant, bakery, knick-knack haven and overall kitsch, the Mars Cheese Castle has served millions of tourists since it opened. And earlier this year, it looked like it just might vanish.
Turns out the shop is in the path of a new interchange being built on I-94 at the intersection of Highway 142. It will be torn down as part of a massive highway reconstruction project that stretches from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line.
However, fear not my out-of-state friends, the Mars Cheese Castle is rising again. The Mars’ owners, the Ventura family, just received approval from the local planning commission to allow construction of a brand new Cheese Castle that will be built directly behind the existing shop and storage facility on the Mars property.
And guess what? It’s going to be bigger, better and more kitschy than ever.
The new Mars Cheese Castle will include turrets and a “drawbridge” — notice that’s in quotes — in keeping with its name. Because the Mars Cheese Castle is such a Wisconsin icon, its Mars Cheese Castle sign – extremely visible from the interstate – has received a special variance from the state that will allow its relocation to the new store.
The new building will be 25,000 square feet and will include a store, restaurant and lounge, gift shop and bakery. A wine shop will be included at the base of a turret. Classy.
The Ventura family is still awaiting approval from the Paris Town Board and Kenosha County for the project. They hope to begin construction in July, hoping to time the project so the existing store can remain open until the new roadway and the new castle are ready to open.
Long live Mars Cheese Castle.