Road Trippin’ Oconto County
Melinda Roberts, author of our upcoming book Little Wisconsin, reports from Oconto County, where she visited and researched the two little Wisconsin towns of Lena (Population 590) and Suring (Population 544).
First stop is Lena and a trip to Kugel’s Cheese Mart. Lena was first known as “Maple Valley;” however, when the railroad came through, the name had to be changed because there was already another stop with that name. Kugel’s Cheese Mart has been in business since 1952. It was started by Bernice and George Kugel. The store was purchased by their son in 1973.
In 2008 his son James (Bernice and George’s grandson) purchased the store. So Kugel’s Cheese Mart has been in the Kugel family for three generations. James’s brother, Bill, is the friendly face behind the counter. You’ll find Bill there most days and especially on the weekends, when, during summer months, they sell as much as 150 pounds of cheese curds per day!
In addition to the varied and delicious cheese and curd choices, they offer beef sticks, jams and jellies, crackers, popcorn, mustards, and seasonal gifts—everything you’d expect at a Wisconsin cheese mart.
Next stop is Hickory Corners Filling Station, a “canopy”-style gas station built in the 1920s by Fred Longard. The office once housed a small store stocked with groceries, hardware, and other supplies. When Longard moved to a larger station across the street, this station was closed. It was used as a summer cottage after that. The building was bought in 1980 by Robert Broetzman, who began decorating it with gas station memorabilia. It’s a magnificent labor of love!
Head due west from Hickory Corners for 10 minutes and you’ll reach Suring, where I recommend that you get an ice-cream treat, a burger or salad, or the best Carolina-style pulled pork (smoked right on the premises) and slaw ever at Dairy Delite Depot.
From there, I suggest you head over to Riverside Park to walk the trails and view the wetlands. There’s a children’s play area, a picnic area, a boat launch, a river walk boardwalk, and the historic expansion bridge. The bridge was saved from destruction during a 1999 highway construction project that included a new traffic bridge across the Oconto River. The bridge links the east side of Riverside Park with the west side wetlands. The Oconto River offers opportunities for sightseeing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and all sorts of river-related activities. It’s a beautiful location!
Suring’s Dollar Value Store stocks 100% grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, and lamb at very reasonable prices and regularly sells out quickly to customers visiting from as far away as Milwaukee and Madison. The meat comes from Sweet Grass Farm in Suring.
There’s loads to see and do in Suring, including a hike or a ride (all-terrain, horseback) on the Nicolet Recreational Trail, a round of golf at the Red Maple Country Club, or a spot in the annual 5K/10K Walk & Run to “conquer THE HILL.” Main Street is peppered with unique shops and a variety of restaurants, taverns, and pubs. The Suring Area Historical Society is just about ready to open a new museum. The people are welcoming and friendly.
Stay tuned for more research reports from Melinda Roberts as she compiles stories for her book Little Wisconsin, which will be available in Spring 2019. Visit her website here.