Around Green County, they're known as the "Buholzer Boys" and boy, do they know how to make cheese.
Klondike Cheese has been a fixture in Monroe, Wis., since 1925. Today, venerable Master Cheesemaker Ron Buholzer and his brothers Steve and Dave, own this third-generation Wisconsin cheese company, with a fourth generation involved in day-to-day operations and ready to someday take over the reins.
The Buholzer Boys, as they are fondly called, are some the nicest, most fun guys you're ever going to meet. In fact, the term "he'd give the shirt off his back," was probably crafted just for them.
Klondike Cheese flies mostly under the radar of the media and even consumers. Google Klondike and the you'll find information about ice cream bars, a solitaire web game, and the gold rush in the Yukon Territory in 1897, but no cheese. You also will most likely never find a Klondike cheese label in the marketplace -- despite the fact this company makes 35 million pounds of feta, muenster, brick and havarti cheese annually.
That's because the 1.28 million gallons of milk from 85 locally family-owned dairy farms that Klondike turns into cheese every month is sold under as 100 different private labels -- buyers purchasing Klondike cheese and putting their own labels on it. Their feta is sold under the popular "Odyssey" brand.
There's no doubt about it -- the Buholzer boys make good cheese, evidenced by the many awards they've won over the years. This past year, they were named the Small Business of the year by the SBA and earlier this month, Ron was interviewed by the BBC as one of five U.S. business men and women asked to give their opinion on the upcoming presidential election.
The Buholzers also believe in buying locally whenever possible to support their local economy and other small family owned businesses in their community. They are members of countless industry organizations, have served on numerous boards, and have given generously to local charities and organizations, although you'd rarely know it because they fly under the radar and do most of it anonymously.
The end product -- high quality cheese -- is what's important to the Buholzers. Making cheese, even with automated equipment, is still an art. It's not something you learn out of a book. It takes years to do it right.
So the next time you buy Odyssey feta or one of the various private labels of havarti, brick or muenster coming out of Wisconsin, there's a good chance you're eating Klondike cheese. Be sure to thank the Buholzer boys.