Sophie Bolich

Hill Valley Dairy Embraces Walker’s Point

Company producing cheese full-time in former Clock Shadow Creamery, with plans to add a retail store and cheese bar.

By - May 14th, 2024 10:29 am
Site of Clock Shadow Creamery. Photo taken Sept. 21, 2022 by Sophie Bolich

138 W. Bruce St. Photo taken Sept. 21, 2022 by Sophie Bolich

When Ron Henningfeld created Luna, he may as well have hung the moon.

Shortly after receiving his cheesemakers license in 2009, the former high school teacher set out to replicate what he thought the moon might taste like if it was made of cheese.

The result was a hybrid between gouda and alpine-style cheese with a nutty flavor and rich, orange color. “It very much looks like the moon when it’s in its wheel form,” said Henningfeld’s wife and business partner, Josie. “It doesn’t taste like any other cheese we can think of.”

Luna and its sister cheese, Alina, went on to win awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest. They were also fast favorites for customers of the couple’s company, Hill Valley Dairy.

Founded just under a decade ago using milk from the family farm, Hill Valley Dairy has grown to include a retail store and cheese bar in Lake Geneva and, as of December, a creamery in the heart of Milwaukee.

Following the late 2023 departure of Clock Shadow Creamery, the Henningfelds took over the space at 138 W. Bruce St., an upgrade that has allowed them to significantly increase cheese production, Josie said.

‘That’s kind of been the forefront of what’s been happening. We’ve just been making a lot more cheese.”

Later this year, the Henningfelds plan to activate the existing retail space with a cheese store and bar. The project, Josie said, will be similar to the couple’s existing cheese bar in Lake Geneva.

“It’s a little bit more of a foodie experience, rather than just walking into a grocery store and grabbing some cheese from the deli,” Josie said, noting that the cheese-forward bar would serve flights, boards and small plates, all expertly paired with beer wine and cocktail selections — so long as the business can first secure its liquor license.

Though Hill Valley Dairy has expanded its local presence in recent months, this isn’t the company’s first stint in Milwaukee. It has maintained a presence in the city for a number of years, sharing the retail and factory space with Clock Shadow Creamery. In fact, Ron was Clock Shadow’s original cheesemaker.

“It’s very full-circle being back here,” Josie said.

After nearly 10 years in the business, the Henningfelds are eager to leave their own mark on the cheesemaking tradition.

“I think Clock Shadow created a really great base for people looking for a unique cheese experience,” Josie said. “And that was something that drew us to the project in the first place … making cheese in the city is really unique, and it was a neat way to tie in where our roots are from and where our family is from.”

Ron grew up working on his family’s third-generation dairy farm in East Troy. Today, he continues to source his milk from the farm, now owned by his brother, Frank.

“It’s been neat to be back at the farm and to be a part of that as much as we can because it really feels like you get the full lifecycle of the cheese,” Josie said. “We kind of found an avenue to be able to support the family business, but be a part of it in our own way.”

Josie added that she hopes that the Milwaukee location will encourage visitation between urban and rural locales. “We think it has a lot of potential to work both ways,” she said. “It’s really exciting to us to kind of connect the two worlds that we live in and be able to encourage people to visit both.”

She also expressed gratitude for the warm welcome that Hill Valley Dairy received from others in the cheesemaking industry — especially during the company’s earliest days.

“At the time, the cheese industry was of an older generation that was really looking to kind of move into the next thing, and they were looking for younger cheesemakers,” Josie said. “And so they were super excited when Ron and a couple other people came along, to sort of embrace them into this world of artisan cheese.”

And though the goal has always been to stay small, the demand for Hill Valley Dairy has exceeded the couple’s expectations. “He just makes really good cheese and people want it,” Josie said of her husband, noting that the recent ramp up in production has been a long time coming.

She attributes the success — in part — to the high-quality milk that forms the base of each cheese. “It really speaks a lot as to how Frank farms,” she said. “Starting with such a high-quality ingredient, it’s really easy to make a good, high-quality product out of it.”

The result is a partnership that’s mutually beneficial, and will soon loop in Milwaukee consumers. “Supporting small, local farmers while being in the city is something that I think people look for, but don’t necessarily have an avenue to do,” Josie said.

The upcoming cheese shop and bar aims to provide that avenue.

If all goes well, the couple hope to open the retail store and bar in July. More information will become available in the coming months. For future updates, visit Hill Valley Dairy on Facebook.


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