Cheese Exchange artifact returning to city

¦ Original phone booth donated to Dairy Heritage Center
by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Visitors to the Plymouth Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center may soon be able to experience an actual piece of the historic Wisconsin Cheese Exchange.

The Redevelopment Authority Thursday approved a donation of an original wooden phone booth from the exchange which was located in Plymouth from 1918 to 1958.

RDA Chair Lee Gentine told the group that he was contacted by his nephew, Jeff Gentine of Masters Gallery Foods, telling him that Northern Wisconsin Produce, a cheese and cold storage business in Manitowoc, owns one of the 13 original phone booths from the exchange.

Company officials, having learned of the new Dairy Heritage Center, have offered to donate the relic to the center.

Gentine explained the history and significance of the item for the group.

“The exchange would meet for about an hour on Friday morning,” Gentine related, in the building at the corner of Mill and Stafford streets in Plymouth.

“There was a bank of 13 phone booths in the room that (brokers) could use to call people, buyers and sellers. That was what determined the price of all cheese in the United States for the next week,” Gentine said.

“It’s a nice offer on their part,” Gentine said of the free donation by the family owned firm in Manitowoc.

Masters Gallery officials would facilitate the donation and take care of its delivery to the Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center, Gentine said.

It will likely be displayed on the main floor of the center, near a wooden silo merchandise display.

RDA members suggested that the phone booth not be used for merchandise display, but instead be made part of the historic displays that make up the Dairy Heritage Center portion of the building.

Cheese Counter Manager Sue Barth reported that after an extremely busy month of December, business has settled down somewhat in January.

One area of interest, she noted, is from people looking to utilize the building for large, closed-group private events.

“April seems to be the most popular month. We’ve got three groups already for that month,” Barth reported.

The RDA approved the creation of an assistant manager position for the Cheese Counter.

“I just think it’s prudent,” Barth told the group. “We are all replaceable and it’s good to train people to carry on as if you’re not there.”

City Administrator Brian Yerges updated the RDA on the city’s plans for the area between Mill Street and the Mullet River downtown.

With work nearly completed on upgrading Stayer Park and the area east of Stafford Street, Yerges said the city will now turn its attention to the area west of Stafford Street.

The city has budgeted funds in 2018 to do a more detailed study of potential improvements in that area, according to Yerges.

One priority will be to formalize the Riverwalk recreational trail connection west from Stafford Street.

Yerges noted that there is a pedestrian bridge by the Mullet under the railroad bridge that connects to a trail through Utility/Bade Park to Milwaukee Street and beyond, but no stand-alone connection to the pedestrian bridge from Stafford Street.

Eventually, he said, the goal is to extend the Riverwalk west and south all the way to Meyer Scenic Park on the city’s south side.

Yerges stressed that money has only been budgeted for the study this year and not for any projects west of Stafford Street or along the trail. That would have to be budgeted for by the City Council once the study is completed.

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