Having grown up working at the castle, [Mario's grandson] Michael says he didn’t appreciate what a landmark it was until later in life. “I went to Italy, and we were talking to people and trying to tell them where we were from in Kenosha. We were saying we’re in between Milwaukee and Chicago, and they went ‘Oh! Mars Cheese Castle!’ And then it started to hit home, how many people drive by and see us,” he says.The castle still caters to flatlanders who can purchase items not available for sale in Corruptistan.
In 2011, the cousins had a chance to really leave their mark. The highway was expanding and the castle was in its way. Their grandfather had the foresight to purchase land surrounding the business, so they decided to relocate just up the road and build anew.
In the bar, they’re pouring Mars Red Planet Ale, created for the castle by Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, and serving complimentary King of Clubs cheddar, a spread created by Mario Sr. in the early days.Ah, the joys of trade barriers. New Glarus do not export Spotted Cow, but the Wisconsin dairy cartel still makes it difficult to get Irish butter. Fortunately, the Cheddar Curtain is more a state of mind than a frontier. It's a state of mind, though, that is favorable to business.
Nearly 200 types of meat are on offer, including their exclusive bratwurst, a recipe devised nearly 70 years ago by Mario Sr. and Fritz Usinger, of Usinger’s Famous Sausage in Milwaukee.
In the bakery you’ll find kringle pastries and that only-at-Mars cheddar cheese bread. Pop into the beer section for a six-pack of New Glarus Spotted Cow (many Chicagoans drive here just for that only-in-Wisconsin purchase) and grab an “eat cheese or die” shirt and cheesehead foam hat (it’s a best-seller) in the gift and souvenir section.
Just south of the castle is the sprawling Amazon Fulfillment Center, which opened on 165 acres in 2015. And Foxconn Technology Group’s flat-screen manufacturing complex, which is expected to employ up to 13,000 people, will open just a few miles north.The summer tourist season is soon to begin.
Throughout its time, Mars Cheese Castle has catered to travelers headed from Chicago to Milwaukee and back. Now, the community around it is booming, and the castle is getting — and giving — a piece of the cheese.