SHULLSBURG—Expansion at Shullsburg Creamery is in the preliminary stages.
At the Shullsburg City Council meeting on March 21, Dennis Tonak of Shullsburg Creamery presented a rough drawing of the company’s plans for expansion to make specialty cheeses at the current facility in downtown Shullsburg. The plans rely on the acquisition of a nearby building, the Woodworth building.
Tonak said the expansion downtown is estimated to cost $1 million for 7,000 square feet. He said he plans to add four to six employees, possibly moving some from part-time to full-time status.
Tonak said the plans include a viewing area to make the factory a tourist destination and draw additional people to the area.
Tonak said he investigated other options, including constructing another building away from the current location. Those plans would cost approximately $700,000 more because they would need to include a packaging area, cooler, restroom and break room, all of which are already available at the current facility. He said the current workforce can be used at the current location, whereas more staff would be needed if building elsewhere.
“Expanding downtown creates some problems, too,” Tonak said. “The construction process could tie up some of Gratiot and Water streets with equipment. The project would have encroached on the Woodworth building, but we’re in the process of purchasing that to tear down.”
Tonak said the project would increase truck traffic downtown both during construction and after completion.
The buildings are located within the historical district and Tonak said he needs to look into requirements for that. Tonak said there will be three silos erected—two for milk storage and one for whey storage.
Shullsburg Mayor Tom Lethlean said the zoning downtown doesn’t allow the manufacturing of cheese. He questioned the smell of the factory and if it would hinder future development of the city’s historical downtown.
The council questioned Tonak about their concerns for the city’s sewer system with the increased use from Shullsburg Creamery. Tonak said he plans to minimize sewer waste with an underground water tank that trickles into the city’s system. He said the tank could also be pumped with the waste hauled away if there were ever an issue with the city’s wastewater system.
“If it’s not feasible, we will have to put up a wastewater silo to haul it out, but that’s not our preference,” Tonak said.
Tonak said there won’t be a wastewater or sewer smell like many other cheese factories. The only smell he expects from the new facility will be the smell of whey.
“If there are too many problems, it’s easier to walk away than do it on the margins and have people upset with us,” Tonak said.
Tonak said there is no intention to move the business that is currently downtown anywhere else.
“The small amount of efficiency we might gain in our operation because of how we could lay out equipment would be way overwhelmed by the cost of a new structure compared to what we’re doing downtown just moving the equipment. What we have for packaging works very well downtown now.”
Tonak said the project is in the development phase. The next steps include finalizing the purchase of the Woodworth building, conducting a site survey of the boundaries, finalizing a floor plan for the surveyed site, render architectural drawings and get engineering approval. He hopes to start construction this fall.
“We don’t want to deter expansion downtown,” alderman Carl Ballard said. “Growth is good.”
The council asked to table a decision concerning the expansion until they have had a chance to visit other communities where cheese factories are located in a downtown district. Tonak gave them several locations with similar situations.