Wisconsinites don’t just like cheese. They wear it on their heads. They throw festivals in its honor. They devote entire museums to it.
So it should come as no surprise that, seventy years ago, Kenosha resident Mario Ventura decided to open a palatially sized store devoted to Wisconsin’s favorite dairy product. And still less of a surprise that the Mars Cheese Castle eventually became one of the state’s most popular roadside attractions.
Since then, the Venturas – Mario’s grandchildren now manage the business – have been hard at work ensuring that the flags atop the castle’s turrets will fly high for many generations to come. In 2011, they embarked on a major expansion project that was finalized amid festivities and free samples over Memorial Day weekend.
What’s changed since construction began? “We’ve expanded the heart and soul of the business, the cheese room,” says co-general manager Michael Ventura. “It was fairly small for what we were trying to offer – whenever we brought in a new cheese, we had to let another one go. The extra space will allow us to stock every type of cheese we’d like to carry.” Now the castle can carry as many as 700 cheeses at once.
And that’s not all. The expansion also includes:
- A souvenir room that doubles as a stable for Isabelle, a talking animatronic cow
- A castle-themed kids’ play area
- A palatial dining room outfitted with thrones, a chandelier and a 14-foot-long banquet table
All told, the building now spans 46,000 square feet. And the Venturas are looking forward to hosting private parties and public events in the newly redesigned space.
“We’ve got wine tastings, cheese samplings and some fun events in the works,” Michael confirms.
In the meantime, visitors can swing by to pick up a block of their favorite cheddar, a cheese kringle or other Wisco-approved foods and drinks. The store will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. the rest of the summer.