This week, Water’s Edge Cheese Curds made their official debut in the city of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin by hosting the Chippewa Economic Development Corporation’s (CEDC’s) Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) Visit and a tour of their production facility. CEDC’s BEAR Visit program is aimed at recognizing and supporting the accomplishments of our local businesses. We understand that 80 percent of all jobs created in a community are those from existing businesses whom we support and encourage. The BEAR Visits also open up a dialogue for everyone present to engage in a conversation about the supply chain, workforce, the business climate, and other economic issues.
Over 12 years ago, Water’s Edge Cheese Curds started in a small building in Jim Falls, Wisconsin. Beginning as a secret recipe in the kitchen of a Northwoods Wisconsin supper club, it has grown into one of the nation’s best-selling cheese curd products. Through practice and much trial and error, the owners of the supper club discovered the perfect cheese curd. When they decided to retire, entrepreneurs Rick and Sara Drolet and Al Grube took the secret recipe and the cheese curd product to the next level.
Today, the company produces frozen, ready-to-fry beer battered cheese curds – but not just any cheese curd – they make the unique “square ones,” utilizing a cube of fresh Wisconsin cheddar and covering it with a secret beer batter crust, made with neighbor Leinenkugel’s beer. Light, crispy, and fresh, Water’s Edge Cheese Curds are rapidly becoming a national sensation in bars, pubs, and restaurants. In 2018, Water’s Edge was named the Best Cheese Curd in Wisconsin, and in 2019, Minnesota named it their Best Cheese Curd product. As the fried treat continues to increase in popularity, the product has been introduced in other states throughout the country as a “mini grilled cheese.” This growth has positioned the company for expansion in Chippewa County, Wisconsin.
In 2020, the factory was forced to shut down for four months due to the pandemic. Water’s Edge Cheese Curds scrambled, pivoted, and adjusted their business operations to survive and continued their plans to expand into a new facility that would be capable of positioning them for growth after the pandemic. With the additional help of the CEDC and the Main Street BounceBack program, Water’s Edge identified a 5000 square foot building that was vacant and ready for remodeling. Originally a manufacturing plant for KNG Mechanical, this building sat unused for several years. Seeing the potential in the building, the owners purchased it and leveraged the opportunity to completely renovate the facility.
“Being able to expand to Chippewa County, especially downtown Chippewa Falls, has increased our visibility to the community. We have people coming in four or five times a week asking when we will sell them a bag of cheese curds – time will tell.” noted Luke Grube, General Manager of the Chippewa Falls location and son of Al Grube.
“Economic development plays a huge role in getting businesses in the Chippewa Valley the resources and education they need to be successful,” stated Rebecca Reinhardt, Vice Chair of the CEDC Board of Directors. “The CEDC continues to support our businesses by advising with business plans, writing support letters for funding, and assisting with grant applications, among many others.”
What is next for Water’s Edge? Currently, the company is partnering with local food distributors and are wholesale only, but Luke says that the incorporation of retail is “inevitable.” If the company continues to produce at their current rate, they estimate that they will need more production space in two to five years. Check them out by clicking here.