BENOIT, Wis. —
Jill Jones is a true Wisconsinite.
As the newest owner of Benoit Cheese Haus in Benoit, Wisconsin, she knows her home state loves its cheese.
“I couldn’t imagine a world without cheese,” she says with a wry smile.
From Havarti, to Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Swiss, Gouda, and Cheddar, Benoit Cheese Haus in Bayfield County boasts that their store offers more than 150 types of cheese.
Jones took over as owner just last year, but she’s been working here for around eight years now.
“A man named David Johnson and I revamped it, called it Benoit Cheese, and started doing a lot of advertising out here in the country,” Jones said.
And Wisconsin country is cheese country, something Jill is well aware of.
“My grandfather was a cheese maker and my grandmother worked at a cheese store when we were growing up for a little while,” Jones said. “So it’s kind of in my blood.”
Jill researches the cheese herself, and brings in products from all over the state of Wisconsin.
“If I’m interested in bringing in a Gouda, I’ll research who has the best Goudas in the area,” Jones explains. “Who’s been getting awards, just find out different information. We deal with probably at least I would say 25 different cheese makers.”
And if you come into the shop, come hungry.
Benoit Cheese Haus lets you sample their products before you buy them. And if you’re a cheese lover, they pretty much have everything.
“When people are having a gathering and they’re having friends and stuff over, they want something unique,” Jones said. “Something they can actually have a conversation about.”
And the dedication to a huge selection is exactly why at Benoit you’ll find different takes on old favorites, like buffalo wing jack or jalapeno, habanero, ghost pepper cheeses for people who like it HOT!
“Whatever heat they can tolerate, they want that hottest one,” Jones said.
So maybe you like your cheese to be plain and traditional? Or maybe you want to try something really unique?
Either way, Benoit Cheese Haus has you covered.
They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
They are located in downtown Benoit, Wisconsin, right on highway F.
Story & photos by Alan Ralph
Six years ago this month, “Benoit Cheese” started doing business in downtown Benoit, and ever since then, Jill Jones has worked there as the sales manager, and later as the general manager.
Owned by local dairy farmers, Benoit Cheese was housed, and still is, in the Benoit Reload & Livestock building at 23920 County Highway F, a mile west of Hwy. 63 next to The Avalon. You can’t miss it.
What changed on October 1, however, is that Jones finalized her purchase of the business, building, and property, and is now the sole owner of the newly named Benoit Cheese Haus.
During a recent interview with Bottom Line News & Views, Jones said she’s changing the name slightly for several reasons. First, it’s important to clarify that the Benoit Cheese Haus is an old-fashioned specialty cheese store that sells a wide variety of the best Wisconsin-made cheeses. They do not make cheese as the former name led some customers to believe.
Secondly, she is mostly German, so the word haus (which means house) matches her ethnic background, and better describes the business when combined with the original name.
She also noted that the word Benoit, in French, means blessed, and that’s exactly how she feels about her new business, staff, and loyal customers. The closing of the G & M Country Store in Benoit at, coincidentally, the time of her purchase could also be viewed as a blessing as Jones begins to make her own imprint on the operation.
There’s more to the Benoit Cheese Haus than just cheese, though. Customers can purchase bread, eggs, milk & ice cream (from Tetzner’s), sausages, chicken, hamburger, bacon, and a whole lot more including gifts and souvenirs. Over half of what the store sells comes from local sources.
The cheese alone is worth the stop, Jones said, because they offer 150 varieties from 16 year old cheddar to fresh, squeaky curds.
The Benoit Cheese Haus goes out into the community, as well, selling their products at area festivals, events, fundraisers, holiday shows, and to other businesses seeking high quality cheese.
They also give back to the communities they serve by supporting area organizations such as WITC, Big Top Chautauqua, 4-H, area schools, and the Furball fundraiser for the Chequamegon Humane Association, to name a few.
According to Jones, the store has a steady stream of customers most of the year, especially in the summer when tourists are in abundance. It slows down in the first quarter, as do many other businesses in the area, but loyal local customers keep the doors open all year. To accommodate them, Jones said, the Benoit Cheese Haus is open year-round Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5, which allows those who can’t make it during the week to shop on Saturday.
Jones wants shoppers to know, too, that if they want or need a specific item, all they need to do is ask for it. Many items on sale at the store are the result of customer requests, and are invaluable in helping Jones and the staff to meet the needs of their clientele.
According to Jones, the months ahead will be busy ones while she replaces the logo on stationery, shirts, signs, labels, advertising, and all other promotional materials. She also plans incremental improvements to the building and store on a priority basis, and plans to enlarge the retail shop sometime next year.
With the busy holiday season coming, some of that will be put on the back burner for the rest of this year, but will be front and center in 2017 as she ramps up to make the Benoit Cheese Haus an even better destination stop.
Jones may be reached at 715-746-2561.
“We ship all over the United States,” Jones said, noting that orders can be placed a multitude of ways.
Benoit Cheese is located at 23920 County Highway F. Ashland, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and can accommodate multiple RVs and buses.
Story & photos by SARA M. CHASE
More than 150 people attended the inaugural "Taste of the Bay" fundraiser for The BRICK Ministries held on Saturday evening in the Northland College Ponzio Campus CenterCafeteria.
Guests were treated to 'taste' sized samples from 13 different area restaurants and caterers including New China Restaurant, The Platter, Pizza Pub, El Dorado, Freehands Lakeside at the Blue Wave, Ashland Baking Company, Delta Diner, Deep Water Grille & The Alley Restaurant, Ashland Family Restaurant, Frankie's Pizza, Four Corners Food & Spirits, Benoit Cheese Haus and Chartwells at Northland College.
"Of course the stars of the evening are our vendors," said Liz Seefeldt, Executive Director of The BRICK Ministries. "Thank you to all the restaurants who participated this evening, donating not only all your time but all your efforts, your labor as well, thank you for stepping up to the plate so to speak and making such a great donation to The BRICK Ministries."
Four awards were given out honoring the Best Savory and Best Sweet dishes as voted on by those in attendance and chosen in a blind taste test by a trio of judges, Hal Haynes of Northland College, Skip Hunter of Heartland Communications and Father Paul Pare of the Catholic Communities of the Ashland Cluster.
The Judges Choice Savory winner was Chartwells' Beef Wellington Stuffed Mushrooms while the People's Choice Savory winner was the Deep Water Grille & The Alley Restaurant's Caribbean Style Pulled Pork with Jamaican Jerk BBQ Tropical Fruit Slaw.
The Judges Choice Sweet winner was Chartwells' Sweet Blueberry French Toast Bread Pudding while the People's Choice Sweet winner was the Ashland Baking Company's dark chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, port wine spiced cherries and pistachios.
"We tried to feature things that we have in the bakery all the time," said Ashland Baking Company catering director and pastry chef Jessica Pergolski. "The devils food cake we used is a cake option we often sell and it's available for special order and then the chocolate mousse is the top layer of our bittersweet mousse cakes that we always have in the case as well."
Chartwells at Northland College Director Amanda Tutor described their winning Blueberry French toast bread pudding as being soaked in cream and eggs, then baked and topped off with a rum carmel sauce.
According to Hunter, judging was a lot of fun. "There's a lot of food — you've got to pace yourself otherwise you get full too fast," Hunter said. "You can't give too high a score to the first one if it tasted really good just in case the last one tasted just as good."
Benoit Cheese Haus owner Jill Jones said they were glad to be involved with Taste of the Bay because it is for a good cause. "The BRICK is obviously a perfect venue to join into," Jones said. "We're really glad to be here ... There are a lot of people, they seem very happy so I think it's going really well."
Ashland Family Restaurant Owner Tim Saliu agreed that it was a great opportunity for a very good cause. "This is a wonderful, wonderful event to bring the college and the community together," said Sue Reader, Board President for The BRICK Ministries. "The Northland Community has offered student help and their facilities partnering with The BRICK Ministry."
BRICK board member Bill Holzhaeuser and his wife Mary Jo checked people into the event and sold tickets at the door. "The thing to recognize too ... is the generosity of the Northland Students because their dinnertime was reduced in order for this event to come in and set up so we appreciate that," Mary Jo said.
Seefeldt said Northland softball coach and BRICK board member Steve Wammer was essential in the partnership between Northland College and The BRICK and the success of this event, which certainly exceeded her expectations. Wammer and multiple student volunteers spent the event delivering samples up to the second floor conference room for the 'blind' judging, among other duties. "We wanted to have a signature fundraiser," Wammer said. "We do fundraisers and other things but something that was special to us and to the community, doing something with food seemed to make sense."
According to Reader, The BRICK has been interested in holding an event like this for at least six years. "It finally became a reality this year so this is really exciting," she said. "It's a great way to start our initial year and we're hoping that this is our signature event."
Taste of the Bay also featured a raffle made possible by donations from multiple area churches, business and organizations.
Seefeldt really wanted to emphasize the great outpouring of generosity shown by the community. "Thank you so much to the entire community for showing up for our event, for supporting the good work that we do at The BRICK Ministries, to serve the low income people who live right here in our community throughout Ashland and Bayfield Counties," she said. "Without your help, we would not be able to serve over 1,600 people through our Food Shelf program every month. Without your help we would not be able to serve at least 1,000 people in our community through our Benevolence Program every year.
"Thank you for all your support."