Make way for a new chapter in the history of a former creamery and cheese factory at 321 N. 2nd Ave. in Haugen.

Renovators Gavin Moorehead and Desha Smith Freely of Rice Lake  and partner Sandy Posta Thompson  of Haugen are preparing to open The Creamery on Saturday, July 20.

Aside from the chimney, porch windows and exterior block, it has undergone a complete renovation and is a vast improvement from the dilapidated building that for over three decades was vacant except for occasional vagabonds critters and storage space.

The owners plan to served homemade pizza along with a large variety of wines and a small variety of domestic beers.

Hours of operation are Thursdays and Fridays from 2-10 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Live music is being lined up for later in the summer. They said the best place for updates is on their Facebook page.

The new interior has room for 74 while the adjoining patio has 32 chairs, so weather permitting it can comfortably seat 100 guests.

They said it can be rented for parties, micro weddings, holiday parties, wedding or baby showers, or other private events.

The 12 small and two large tables in the room were made from cottonwood trees cut down by the creek and milled by an Amish craftsman from Brill. Whiskey barrels provide the legs for the two large tables.

Part of Haugen history

The walls of the new establishment feature  photos of the former creamery and cheese factory, located south of the dam on the west side of Bear Creek, as well as scenes taken during the building’s renovation.

According to the Haugen Centennial Book, “In July 1897, the Haugen Creamery Co. was formed by Frank J. Koukl and Frank Urbanek and began operation. From May 1903 to June 1905, Michael J. Wagner operated it as the Wagner Cheese Factory. From June 1905 to February 1910, Frank and Mary Paul ran it as the Bear Lake Creamery Co.”

“In February 1910, Albert Olson and Joseph Konop purchased the property and formed the Bear Lake Farmer’s Creamery Co. In 1918, they razed the old original structure and built a new factory with living quarters.”

“In March 1919, Jacob Sr. and Emma Mueller purchased the business and renamed it the Bear Lake Cheese Factory.

The Creamery owners said that when the factory burned in 1923, it was rebuilt. The living quarters survived the fire, and rafters from it, some showing scorch marks, have been repurposed into the patio tables.

The cheese factory was operated until its closing in May of 1955.

Dorothy Kodesh, whom most of the village residents call “Grandma,”  once lived there with her late husband Anton.

“When Dorothy had it, she enclosed the porch and had an antique shop,” said the new owner, who said they have opened it back up and restored it to its original design.

Kodesh now lives next door and is pleased that the structure  has been restored. She has not seen it yet, but has given the new owners her best wishes on their ambitious venture.

The property apparently changed ownership several times, none improving the structure.

Smith Freely said it fell into her hands after her Aunt Kelly’s mom, Caroleen Johnson, died. Her family didn’t even know she owned it and didn’t know what to do with it.

Smith Freely and Moorehead have done many house renovations but never a commercial venture.  She and Thompson crawled through a window to check it out.

“It was very rundown,” she said, trying not to step into any of the holes in the floor, and  hoping it did not fall down on their heads.

Next she brought Moorehead to  the site and asked “What do you think?”

“That looks like a lot of work,” he replied. Then he added, “Whatever you want.”

Smith Freely, who with Moorehead has experience in flipping properties, wanted to go for it.

She purchased it in September 2017, and in October 2017 they tore down the garage that was falling down.

They took the winter off, then rolled up their sleeves and went to work in the spring 2018.

Because it was a commercial venture, they hired an architecture and waited for the plan to be approved by the state.

Smith Freely said the most nerve-wrecking part of the project was when they tore the roof off, hoping the four walls and chimney would remain solid

Local contractors Rick and Ron Fetkenheuer assisted in redoing the roof, with the owners reclaiming as much as they could of the old materials.

They even hired a family friend to find and retrieve original bricks that were thrown down by the creek to rebrick the wall where they garage had been attached. Her dad, a mason by trade, did most of the work.

She said other family members and friends have helped out. “It’s been a group effort all along,” she said.

Wall lights in the interior came from Herberger’s, where her grandma worked for 30 years.

The owner has been snatching up wooden chairs at auctions. “They were wayward souls that didn’t have matches. Now they have a new home,” she said.

“Desha is a master at repurposing and not throwing things out,” said Posta Thompson.

When the original Haugen Feed Mill was put up for auction, Smith Freely called Posta Thompson  said ‘we should buy that place.’ But then a trucking company from Spooner beat them to it.

So when the old creamery needed a buyer, they poured their time and energy into it, and now are ready to celebrate its opening.

“The village is very excited that it was renovated,” she said. “Mark your calendars for our July 20 grand opening. We can’t wait to share this piece of Haugen

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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