Dairy destination for decades

Weber’s Farm Store enjoys long history

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MARSHFIELD, Wis. – When a store chock-full of dairy products becomes a destination for both locals and out-of-towners, that is a good thing. When that store is a family owned and operated business with nearly 120 years invested in dairy farming and distributing dairy products to consumers, that is an even better thing.
Joellen Heiman, along with her husband, Ken, represent the sixth generation of her family to market dairy products through the Weber’s Farm Store in Marshfield. The couple also helps to run Ken’s family business, Nasonville Dairy.
Weber’s Farm Store has been the family’s lifeblood.
“There is a long history with this farm and business,” Heiman said . “I grew up here, working on our family dairy farm and in our farm store.”
Since 1995, Heiman has been at the helm of the business and has taken pride in growing and developing the business into the version people flock to today. They retail more than 200 food items, all locally grown and produced, including about 150 cheese-related products.  
“Local is very important to me,” Heiman said.
Milk is processed and packaged on-site, and the store markets a variety of milk, including chocolate, strawberry and mint. The milk is sold in plastic pouches, which consist of an inner pouch covered by a protective bag. Heiman’s father began using that packaging method in place of glass bottles in 1973. They also process and sell heavy whipping cream, and during the holiday season, they carry eggnog.  
One recent addition is kefir. The Weber’s Farm Store kefir has claimed several gold medals, Heiman said.
“In 2013, Weber’s started working on creating our own recipe for kefir,” Heiman said. “It took a while, about 11 different batches, to get what I wanted. It is highly digestible and has seven different natural probiotics in it.”
What brings customers to the store in droves, though, is the ice cream. They have been selling ice cream for 35 years. Two years ago, the Heimans decided to begin adding more flavors to the traditional vanilla, chocolate and twist cones that were available.
“We start with a vanilla soft-serve mix and then create our own flavors. The number of varieties has grown tremendously over the years,” Heiman said. “People will bring their kids in and remember coming to get ice cream when they were kids themselves.”
In addition to the traditional flavors, ice cream flavors include orangesicle, birthday cake and pumpkin.
In 2009, the Heimans realized they had outgrown the store that had been on the farm and increased the store’s size.
“We wanted to build but not have to close or lose customers,” Heiman said. “We basically built the new store around the old store and then tore the old store down inside of the new one in sections. It was quite the project, but both our customers and our inspectors were great to work with.”
By 2015, they had underestimated the growth of their business and built on again.
One aspect of the Weber’s Farm Store that might not seem so unique any longer is the drive-thru service.
“My parents started the drive-thru about 1960,” Heiman said. “We had a drive-thru before McDonald’s had one. It was a big hit even back then for parents with small children and for the elderly or disabled.”
When Joseph and Bernadine Weber, Heiman’s parents, purchased the family farm in 1951, Joseph’s dream was to expand on his family’s legacy of delivering milk to customers in town since 1904. Instead of the delivery routes, Joseph’s goal was to have an on-farm retail store. The family first opened Weber’s Farm Store in 1955.
“It was a true family business,” Heiman said. “We all worked on the farm and in the store.”
Heiman’s brother purchased the business from their parents, and Heiman had never envisioned that one day she would be running the family business. She was employed as a surgical technician at Marshfield Clinic. In 1995, the opportunity to purchase the store from her brother presented itself.
“Ken asked me if I would want to manage the retail store, if we were to buy the farm and store,” Heiman said.
Heiman made the decision to leave  her job working as a G.I. Technician at the Marshfield Clinic; and Ken, Kim and Kelvin Heiman and their families purchased Weber’s Farm Store. Heiman took on the task of managing the business, a role she held for 23 years before making the decision to step back from a hands-on on-site management role following a battle with breast cancer in 2013.
“The cancer treatments really took a toll on me,” Heiman said. “I needed to get healthy, so we hired a manager to run the day-to-day operations of the store. That has allowed me to focus on marketing and dedicate myself to growing the business.”
At the same time, the Heimans realized the milking herd located at the farm site was outgrowing the land-locked facilities.
“We are surrounded by an elementary school, a technical school, a college and a golf course,” Heiman said. “We wanted to keep up our good relationship with the community. If we were going to grow the herd, we needed to do it elsewhere.”
The Heimans established Heiman Holsteins, a farm about 8 miles away from Weber’s Farm Store, where they milk 500 cows in a rotary parlor. Cows at Heiman Holsteins carry the A2A2 milk protein gene.
“When Ken was serving on the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, he learned about this new thing in the industry called A2A2 protein,” Heiman said. “Milk produced by cows that had the gene would be easier for some people to digest. That interested him, and he began genetic testing and selecting for that.”         
The Heimans’ dedication to consistently creating products their consumers want has allowed the business to expand beyond what either had envisioned and beyond what Heiman’s father had envisioned in his dreams of operating an on-farm retail store.

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