Member-owned businesses make for safe and special holiday gift-giving
Holiday shopping is in full swing, and like everything else, it’s going to be a bit different this year. A typical holiday shopping excursion comes with crowds of people and extended time in enclosed spaces—situations that public health experts recommend avoiding right now to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic. An easy solution, of course, is to fully embrace online shopping, but that can feel less personal for those who prefer to pick out presents from local places.
However, online shopping and supporting local businesses are not mutually exclusive. Rural Wisconsin is filled with locally owned businesses that offer quality products unique to their area, with safe, contact-free purchasing options. Scrolling through their websites can be every bit as satisfying as roaming through your community’s downtown, visiting the local shops.
If you’re looking for a safe way to find distinctive gifts for the special people on your list, we suggest you take a look at the following businesses. All are located on Wisconsin electric co-op lines and offer products made with the precise care and attention that only small, family-owned businesses can provide. In addition, all have well-established online shopping systems in place and can ship your purchase to your home or that of a friend or family member living farther away, perfect for this year when many holiday gatherings will be smaller due to more families staying closer to home.
Another perk is that many of these places have onsite retail stores and are fun places to visit in person. Looking through their websites in search of the perfect gift might just give you inspiration as you plan your family’s getaways for a time when it’s safer to travel.
If you don’t have a computer or reliable internet service to peruse these Shop Co-op options, we suggest you contact your local library, which likely has computer terminals, Wi-Fi service, and staff members willing and able to help patrons navigate online resources. Happy shopping!
Give Something Cheesy
Humbird Cheese: If you want to give a gift that says “Wisconsin,” you can’t go wrong with a box of cheese. And if you’re looking for lots of different kinds of cheese, you can’t go wrong with Humbird Cheese in Tomah, on Oakdale Electric Cooperative lines. Family owned and operated since 1969, Humbird began as a cheese factory in the 1930s but now operates solely as a store, with a wide variety of cheese selected from 25 different cheese factories around the state. You’ll find just about every kind of cheese here, in every form, from bulk cuts to spreads to snack sticks.
But the cheese doesn’t stand alone here. Humbird also offers plenty of other products, including sausage, homemade fudge, jam, maple syrup, honey, cranberry products, and soup mixes. Make your own selections to package together, or pick out one of several attractive gift boxes. You can purchase just about any variety from the store’s online store.
Humbird Cheese is located at 2010 Eaton Ave., Tomah, WI 54660. Phone: 888-684-5353. Shop online at humbirdcheese.com.
Old Country Cheese Factory: For cheese with a unique regional touch, try Old Country Cheese Factory, located in the heart of southwest Wisconsin’s Amish community in Cashton, on Vernon Electric Cooperative lines. Old Country Cheese carries more than 20 varieties of cheese made on site with milk from more than 230 area Amish milk producers. Some of the more unusual flavors include Bacon Fest, which combines bacon, onion, and dill pickles; and Christmas, made with chives.
The area’s Scandinavian heritage is also reflected at Old Country Cheese Factory in its variety of juusto baked cheeses, a buttery-flavored, squeaky cheese that originated in Scandinavia more than 200 years ago. Juusto comes in a flat chunk that’s meant to be warmed in an oven, skillet, or microwave before serving. In addition, you’ll find a wide variety of homemade products including Amish candy and jam, maple syrup, pancake and waffle mix, and garden and fruit salsas.
Old Country Cheese is located at S502 County Road D, Cashton, WI 54619. Phone: 608-654-5411. Shop online at oldcountrycheese.com.
Roelli Cheese Haus: If you’re looking to add some artisan flair to a holiday party tray or gift box, check out Roelli Cheese Haus just east of Shullsburg, on Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative’s lines. The Roelli family has been making cheese at this location for four generations, ever since Adolph Roelli brought his craft to Wisconsin from his native Switzerland in the 1920s.
Today, Roelli is known for its award-winning artisan cheeses, created and handcrafted by Chris Roelli, Adolph’s great-grandson and one of Wisconsin’s distinguished Master Cheesemakers. Among his original artisan cheeses is Dunbarton Blue, a combination of creamy cheddar with hints of blue cheese. Other original artisan varieties include the award-winning Red Rock Cheese, an American-style cheddar cheese with a slight blue cheese vein; and Little Mountain Cheese, a traditional Alpine cheese with a smooth and nutty flavor. There’s also Gravity Hill Cheese, an English farmstead-style crumbly cheese; and Roelli Haus Select Cheddar Cheese. All are available individually or together in a sampler package from Roelli’s online store.
Roelli Cheese Haus is located at 15982, State Highway 11, Shullsburg, WI 53586. Phone 608-965-3779. Shop online at roellicheese.com.
A Meaty Gift Idea
Nueske’s: Do you love bacon? Doesn’t everybody? Even if you don’t, you’ll find something to love at Nueske’s in Wittenberg, on Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative’s lines. Nueske’s is nationally known for its applewood-smoked bacon, but that’s just the tiniest tip of all the products offered here.
Nueske’s is also where you’ll find the perfect ham for your holiday dinner, plus pork chops, pork ribs, beef ribs, sausages, beef sticks, turkey breasts, chicken breasts, and the list goes on. What all these meats have in common is that they’re slowly smoked using the same methods that R.C. Nueske used when he began smoking meats and selling his products to friends, neighbors, and small shops in 1933. Nueske used the same European methods that his ancestors brought to Wisconsin in 1882, and those are the same methods used at the company that is now overseen by the third generation of the Nueske family, Tanya.
The company’s products, all with their signature smoked flavor, are available at the company’s online store, where you can also scroll through a wide variety of samplers and gift baskets.
Nueske’s Company Store is located at 1390 E. Grand Ave., Wittenberg, WI 54499. Shop online at nueskes.com, or call toll-free to order at 1-800-392-2266.
Scholze Family Beef: If there’s a foodie on your list who loves a farm-to-table experience, you’ll want to check out Scholze Family Beef in Humbird, on Jackson Electric Cooperative’s lines. This business is run by brothers Theo and Will Scholze and their families. The Scholze brothers returned to the farm they grew up on and began operating as Scholze Family Farms in 2014, with beef cattle, dairy cattle, and chickens.
The Scholzes sell high-quality steaks, roasts, and other cuts of pasture-raised beef directly from their farm. They also have ground beef in bulk or pre-made patties, as well as sausages and a variety of beef snacks. In addition to the beef products sourced right from their farm, the Scholzes sell locally sourced pork products and chicken cuts from an organic farm. For the holidays, they offer combinations of these products packaged in gift boxes with other local products as well as gift certificates.
Scholze Family Beef products are available for sale in a converted shed-to-shop right on their farm, but you can also have the products delivered right from the farm to your table via their convenient online store.
Scholze Family Beef is located at W11218 Scholze Road, Humbird, WI 54746. Phone: 715-501-4120. Shop online at scholzefamilybeef.com.
Wayne’s Jerky: Here’s an idea to chew on: If you’ve got a snacker on your list, or you’re just looking for something different to munch on at your family gathering, check out Wayne’s Jerky in Little Suamico, on Oconto Electric Cooperative’s lines. Wayne Ward started making jerky using his own recipes as a retirement project. His jerky was such a hit with friends and neighbors that he soon began getting calls from complete strangers who wanted some.
He launched Wayne’s Jerky in 2006, and his customer base gradually grew from some local bars to more than 40 grocery and convenience stores in northeast Wisconsin. The demand eventually led him to open an online store, where he sells his handcrafted beef and turkey jerky in a wide assortment of flavors, including citrus lime, cranberry, and Door County Cherry.
Not a meat eater? Not a problem! Wayne also makes a meat-free version out of portobello mushrooms. There’s even a version for the four-legged family members; KaDee Pet Treats come in turkey and beef flavor.
Wayne’s Jerky is located at 625 W Frontier Rd., Little Suamico, WI 54141. Phone: 920-639-4842. Shop online at waynesjerky.com.
Get in the Spirit
Fawn Creek Winery: This is one spirit you’ll love getting a visit from on Christmas Eve. If you’ve got a wine lover on your list, or you’re just looking for a unique beverage for your holiday dinner, try Fawn Creek Winery in Wisconsin Dells, on Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative’s lines. Owned and operated by three siblings and their spouses, Fawn Creek Winery specializes in sweeter, fruit-flavored wines such as Granny’s Gold, a Granny Smith-flavored Riesling; Razz Prairie, a raspberry-flavored Pinot Noir; and Just Peachy, a Chardonnnay sweetened with peach juice. Fawn Creek also makes more traditional semi-dry table reds and semi-sweet whites.
All these varieties are available through the winery’s online store, but you’ll also want to plan a visit sometime to enjoy the live music and other special events. In the summer there’s live music on the ground’s main stage; during colder months, the music moves to the pavilion. Fawn Creek Winery is located at 3619 13th Ave., Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965. Phone: 608-253-4400. Shop online at fawncreekwinery.com.
White Winter Meadery, Cidery & Distillery: If you want to try a more traditional drink, visit White Winter Meadery, Cidery & Distillery in Iron River, on Bayfield Electric Cooperative’s lines. Owners Jon and Kim Hamilton specialize in making mead, almost certainly the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man. In fact, it was often referred to as “the drink of the gods” in Greek mythology. Also known as honey wine, mead differs from grape wine in that it’s made with honey and water fermented by yeast.
However, mead can be flavored with fruit, and that’s where White Winter really shines. They use the fruits that thrive in the colder Lake Superior climate—blueberries, cherries, strawberries, pears, and apples—to create award-winning, hand-crafted meads. All the honey and fruit used is sourced locally from small farms.
Locally sourced fruit is also used to create White Winter’s hard ciders and fruit spritzers, and some of the distilled spirits such as apple brandy. (Distilled spirits cannot be shipped and are only available on site.) There’s a tasting room where visitors can sample the unique varieties of mead, and in non-pandemic times guests can tour the meadery/cidery/distillery to see how these traditional beverages are made.
White Winter Winery is located at 68323 Lea Street, Iron River, WI 54847. Phone: 1-800-697-2006. Shop online at whitewinter.com.
Sublime Skin Care
Brown Barn Botanicals: Who couldn’t use a little pampering at this time of year? Check out the special skin-care products at Brown Barn Botanicals for a purely pleasing gift. Located in Holcombe on Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative’s lines, Brown Barn Botanicals is run by the mother/daughter team of Christine Untiedt and Alyssa Van Doorn, the latter of whom is a professional biologist and skincare formulator. They offer professionally formulated skin care featuring locally sourced botanicals from their own family farm. Brown Barn Botanicals specializes in facial skin care, but products range from lotions and lip balms, to soaps and bath bombs. All are handmade in small batches in their on-site chemical-free lab.
Special gifts for the holidays include handmade bar soap in festive varieties including Holiday Cheer, a mix of cranberries and pomegranite with a touch of candied pears; Merry Mistletoe, with a blend of spruce, citrus, and cranberries; Evergreen and Lavender; and Nest + Honey, with a touch of orange and cranberry. These and other products are available at their online store.
Brown Barn Botanicals can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 20, Holcombe, WI 54745. Phone: 715-630-1041. Shop online at brownbarnskincare.com.
YB Urban: Why be urban indeed, when you can be rural? That seems to be what Chris and Angie Whelan thought when they left big-city life about 10 years ago to pursue country living just outside of Ellsworth, on Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services’ lines. Soon after settling into farm life, they began making and selling eclectic personal-care products under the name YB Urban, which was inspired by Chris’ stated desire to make soap and call it YB Stinky. That very-named soap is just one of the products the Whelans make fresh with natural, organic ingredients. Other product lines include YB Chapped (lip and skin balms), YB Dry (lotions and butters), YB Scruffy (shaving and beard supplies), and YB Tense (oils, salts, and truffles). There are also kid-friendly items like brightly colored Lego-shaped soap. Products are available at the business’s studio and shop in Ellsworth and through the YB Urban’s online store.
YB Urban Studio + Shop is located at 243 Broadway St., Ellsworth, WI 54011. Shop online at yburban.com.
Dr. Sarah’s Essentials: You can find more organic, sustainable, all-natural skin-care products at Dr. Sarah’s Essentials, located in Arcadia on Riverland Energy Cooperative’s lines. Dr. Sarah Slaby is a veterinarian who specializes in organic and sustainable agriculture. She began creating her own line of natural products for treating dairy cows and came to learn that many of her clients were using her products to treat their own aches and pains as well. From there she expanded her research and developed a line of natural therapeutic skin-care products for humans. Products include skin ointments, lotions, hand sanitizers, and sunscreens for sensitive skin.
However, Dr. Sarah hasn’t forgotten her four-legged customers. She and business partner Dr. Paul Dettloff, also a veterinarian and founder of Dr. Paul’s Lab, LLC, offer products for animals as well. You can find them all on their online store.
Dr. Sarah’s Essentials LLC is located at W30881 George Lane, Arcadia, WI 54612. Phone: 608-323-3005. Shop online at drsarahsessentials.com.
Down to Earth Garden Center & Shops: For one-of-a-kind gifts, you’ll want to shop at a one-of-a-kind place, which certainly describes Down to Earth Garden Center & Shops, located in Eau Claire on Eau Claire Energy Cooperative lines. Although “garden center” is in the business’s name, that’s just one aspect of this multi-faceted facility. Owned and operated by the Polzin family since 2010, Down to Earth comprises a greenhouse, a landscaping business, a café, and a boutique shop all interconnected, creating one flowing, soothing, experience.
Garden-themed gifts are sold here, of course, as well as boutique items including many products made by local vendors. Gift cards can be purchased online and received by mail. In addition, the facility’s Mustard Seed Boutique, complete with a full online store, offers women’s casual clothing that complements the company’s mission to “add value to the lives of our customers by enhancing their outdoor experiences.” New arrivals include fuzzy sweaters, stylish hoodies, and comfy flannels.
Down to Earth Garden Center & Shops is located at 6025 Arndt Lane, Eau Claire, WI 54701, Phone: 715-833-1234. Shop Mustard Seed Boutique online at downtoearthshops.myshopify.com.
Sievers School of Fiber Arts: For something really different, how about giving someone the opportunity to nurture their creative spirit? Sievers School of Fiber Arts is an internationally known, three-season visual arts and crafts school located on Washington Island in Door County, or “north of the tension line,” as the island is often described. Founded in 1979, Sievers is housed in an 1890 schoolhouse and has studio space and dormitory facilities for a complete artful retreat. The school attracts renowned teachers in all manner of fiber arts including weaving, knitting, basketry, quilting, spinning, and paper arts. Classes are small and accommodate students of all skill levels.
Gift certificates are available online and can be purchased for any amount. They can be redeemed for any class at any time, or at the Sievers Shop, which carries original arts and crafts made by Sievers teachers and students as well as a fiber arts supplies and books.
Sievers School of Fiber Arts is located at 986 Jackson Harbor Road, Washington Island, WI 54246. Phone 920-847-2264. Visit sieversschool.com.
SHOP LOCAL – Check out other online options from businesses right in your own community.