Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese is growing and so is the store where the Kraemer family sells and ships more than a half million pounds of premium Wisconsin cheese and cheese products every year.
Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese recently opened a new store on the site that had been the family’s dairy farm. The store is attached to the original 115 year old barn, which is being renovated as a part of the project and will feature a new tasting room and mini dairy museum.
The family is planning an official grand re-opening in February.
The additions included a new retail store and production area for the company to produce its cheese spread and fudge. Shoppers will be able to watch the cheesemakers at work. Then they can go upstairs to learn more about wine and beer pairings with the wide variety of cheeses that the family carries in the store. Specialty beers and wines and coffees are also available.
Kraemers Wisconsin Cheese is owned by brothers Mike and Richard Kraemer and their families together with Dan and Mary Christian and their family.
The business was started by their Grandpa Tony Kraemer, a lifelong dairy farmer, who decided to build a small dairy business on the farm at the edge of Watertown. His farm and dairy operation survived the great Depression and he was able to build his business through the next two decades.
His son, Jim, remembers his dad helping families in the community who were struggling financially. He says his dad always delivered the milk even when people couldn’t pay for it.
In 1949, Jim joined his father in the business, concentrating on all facets of the operation. Jim spent years learning and doing everything from working the farm and land to delivering milk and building a loyal customer base. But Jim’s interests lay in another area of the operation and in the early 1970’s he and his wife, Joanne, were able to realize their dream.
On the family homestead the Kraemer Dairy Store was born.
Over the next three decades, Jim and Joanne worked to build the business, travelled around the state in search of popular Wisconsin cheeses, and in the process, groomed the next generation of Kraemers to be involved in Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese.
FAMILY CHEESE SPREAD
Along with sourcing Wisconsin’s best cheeses, Jim also started developing his own recipes of cheese spreads (13 varieties in all). They make the spreads in small 40-pound batches to ensure quality, flavor and freshness. The family has produced award winning spreads, including Mike’s award winning cold pack beer cheese spread in the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest.
While his family officially runs the business today, Jim still comes in to help out, particularly during the very busy holiday season when families and businesses come in to get their cheese trays and other special treats for holiday parties.
As the family plans for their February grand opening of their new store and tasting room, Mike says they are gathering dairy farm memorabilia to display in the building. Some of the pieces were found in the Kraemer’s own barn. Others are being brought in by area retired farmers who are happy for the opportunity for folks to see these old-time pieces.
Mike says, “There are so many people who come in here who grew up in farming and would enjoy seeing these things. We really appreciate the farmers in the area and we hope to do something special for them in when this project is complete. Perhaps we’ll offer free ice cream cones for retired farmers.”
Mike says the family has been thinking about this remodeling project for a long time, knowing that their store was just too small for their growing business.
He says the remodeling project also meant no longer operating out of three buildings. They had been utilizing the upstairs of the old barn for packaging and storage but now everything is in one building including making cheese spread, cutting and wrapping cheese and marketing their products.
The remodeling project was handled by Phillip Reinke of Innovative Construction Concepts who came up with some creative ways to save some of the original parts of the barn and incorporate them into the design while utilizing a little of the space in the upper portion of the barn.
Kraemer says, “When we started this Dad was worried that we would lose the old parts of this barn. We have saved some of the barn boards for one wall and put new barn boards on the rest. We also saved the hard maple eight by eight beams. They were original growth, probably cut right on this property when the barn was built in 1898.”
Kraemer works with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and is active in the Watertown Chamber of Commerce. He believes when the tasting room is complete their business will become a destination for tour groups.
The Kraemers also sell other local products in their store and believe they can be a part of tours that also visit other popular Watertown attractions such as Berres Brothers Coffee, the Octagon House and more.
The family is also supportive of local charities. On their wall is a plaque recognizing their contributions to Make--A-Wish Wisconsin. In August the family organized a golf outing that raised $21,350 for the organization. They have hosted that annual event since 1995.