Lisa Erickson is in the process of opening ‘The Milk House’ in downtown Osceola.
The shop is part retail, part museum, and might be best described as an ode to dairy.
“My concept isn’t just a gourmet cheese shop, but a gourmet dairy bar,” Erickson said. “Where you can get a top quality malt with the best ice cream, the same thing with cheese and different baked goods cooked with Wisconsin butter. Also inside the shop I have two historical displays depicting life from the 1930s and 40s to show consumers and customers how far we’ve come in the dairy industry.”
Her innovative approach to the new business got the attention of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The WEDC recently held a statewide Downtown Pitch Contest that looked to reward unique business ideas that impact small town economies. Erickson entered The Milk house in the competition and was named one of the top three finalists. The prize for her accomplishment was a $5,000 grant.
Both new businesses and existing businesses could apply for the contest, as long as they had a “new idea” and were physically located on the main street of their respective towns and villages.
“It was a very large application process,” Erickson said. “You had to submit your whole business plan and write a big thing answering all these questions about why you thought you had the best new idea.”
On top of that, each entry had to create a five-minute pitch video detailing their idea.
“Part of the criteria they were basing it on was your creativity in that video,” Erickson said. “So I went through the whole idea of being a person coming to Wisconsin looking for a dairy shop because everybody knows Wisconsin is about dairy, and not being able to find anything.”
The grant will help Erickson get the business off the ground, which has proven just slightly difficult amid the pandemic.
“I’m hoping to have everything up and running, well — by last May,” Erickson said laughing. “The problem that I’ve run into is getting equipment. There’ve been so many issues along the way.”
Supply issues have been the major thorn in Erickson’s side, but she said she’s hopeful things will finally start to arrive soon. She’ll be at least partially opening the business shortly, and adding more products as they come in.
“I’m going to have a soft open and fling the doors open when I feel confident that me and my team are running smoothly and all in a good place,” she said. “And we’ll add things as we feel comfortable.”