The Clock Shadow
Creamer, one of only a few urban cheese factories in the
country, produces curds, quark, ricotta, mozzarella and other
It began with a
cheese curds conundrum. Bob Wills, owner of Cedar Grove Cheese in
Plain, Wis., struggled to deliver fresh curds — so fresh, they
squeak — to Milwaukee retailers by early afternoon each day. The
240-mile round trip posed a challenge.
Now, when cheese
lovers walk into Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee’s Walker’s
Point neighborhood, which Wills opened in June as one of the country’s
few urban cheese factories (others are in places like New York City’s
Times Square and Seattle’s Pike Place Market), the problem is
solved. Cheese curds are sold just a few hundred feet from where they
were made that morning. "They’re squeaky and fresh and that’s
how they should be," Wills says. "The whole idea here is to
serve the city with fresher cheese than they can get otherwise."
Other fresh cheeses, like quark, ricotta and mozzarella, are made and
retailed here, too. It’s attracted the attention of local chefs.
"Peter (Sandroni) from La Merenda is down here twice a day for
cheese," Wills says.
In 1989 Wills
bought Cedar Grove Cheese from his in-laws. Under his guidance, the
creamery produced the country’s first non-rBGH cheese and was among
the first to make grass-fed, organic cheeses. Establishing Clock
Shadow Creamery — a challenge, given the decreased square footage,
which makes aging of cheeses impossible — fueled his want for
innovation. "I had just been to Seattle and was thinking about
‘local,’" says Wills, who frequently receives calls from
others around the country pondering urban cheese factories. It was a
call from local developer Juli Kaufmann that alerted him to the
building on a former brownfield site. Today, it’s an eco-friendly
building with geo-thermal wells, a rooftop garden with a
rainwater-collection system and a commitment during its construction
to use 50-percent recycled materials.
estimates about 100 people visit daily, some paying $3 for a tour of
the factory as seen through large windows and a historical overview of
Wisconsin cheesemaking. "I thought it would be so cool for people
to see how the cheese is made," Wills says. "In some ways
this is more than a cheese factory. One of the things about this
location is local, local and local." After the tour there is a
tasting and the opportunity to buy scoops of ice cream or ice cream
sandwiches from Purple Door Ice Cream in the same space. Founders
Lauren and Steve Schultz shifted their production of ice cream —
featuring local ingredients, in artisan flavors like Fair Trade Banana
Chocolate Walnut and Chocolate Guatemala Roast — into the creamery
shortly after it opened.
Wills has been
pleased to see his cheeses pop up on restaurant menus in Walker’s
Point, a fitting tribute for this cheese factory named after the
neighborhood’s most iconic image: the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower.
"It’s become a mecca for restaurateurs," he says about
Walker’s Point. "Most of these are using our cheeses. We just
feel like we’re really loved here."
call for cheesemaking classes and tutorials in pairing wines with the
Clock Shadow Creamery cheeses made here.