Nic Mink, co-founder of Sitka Salmon Shares, and his wife, Danika Laine, were looking for an investment to create a small restaurant that served up handmade pizza. But when the couple lost out on a property in northern Wisconsin and they discovered the sprawling former dairy plant along the Sugar River in Paoli, their business plan took an abrupt turn into a $10.3 million project they’re calling Seven Acre Dairy Company.
The 21,000-square-foot building with multiple additions over the decades has been known over the years as the Paoli Cheese Factory, Paoli Cooperative Dairy Company, Paoli Creamery and Paoli Co-Op Creamery. Since closing in 1980, it has primarily been used for shops, gallery space and apartments, but it’s now being transformed into an eight-room boutique hotel, farm-to-table restaurant, lounge, café, event space and a production area for small batches of butter and ice cream. Outside an oak savanna is being restored, and walking paths are being planned, along with an outdoor ice rink in the winter.
Already approved for the state and national registers of historic places, other plans for the building include a chandelier and other lamps made from old milk bottles, handmade furniture from trees felled on the property, dairy-related signage and packaging, and a vintage Babcock tester used to test the fat content of milk and invented by Stephen Babcock at UW-Madison.
Mink and Laine have applied for a $250,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., a $2 million loan from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and $2 million in financing from the Property Assessed Clean Energy program that finances energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on private properties.
Due to its historic significance, the project is also counting on $2.5 million in federal and state historic tax credits. There’s a $10,000 grant from the state’s Main Street Bounce Back program in addition to $4 million in financing from two area banks and $2.5 million from the private investors.
[Adapted from: Pay dirt in Paoli: Creamery building gets new life Apr. 25, 2022 Wisconsin State Journal]