Cheeseheads Flying Off the Shelves…

February 3, 2011


ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — The guy from the phone company had to install two extra lines last week just to keep up with the demand. The work force at Foamation, Inc., was doubled, to 20, with three shifts, and the UPS and FedEx trucks were backed up to the loading docks pretty much 24/7.

Ralph Bruno — a thoughtful, angular man dressed in green and yellow — is deliriously happy, from both a fan’s and an accountant’s perspective, that his Green Bay Packers are playing in Super Bowl XLV. The problem is, things at his modest factory a few miles south of Milwaukee are getting just a tad squirrely.

“We’ve had to ration the cheese,” Bruno says sadly, shaking his head. “We’re trying to take care of our best customers, but it hasn’t been easy.”

Twenty-four years ago, Bruno, wielding a double-edged turkey slicer and a dream, created the first Cheesehead. After fortifying his courage with a few beers in the parking lot, he wore the cheddar-yellow, wedged-shaped headpiece into County Stadium for a Brewers game. More than anyone on earth, Bruno has helped turn what was once a derogatory term for Wisconsinites (said to be coined by folks in Illinois) into a source of unabashed pride. The ultimate head cheese has been seen all around Dallas and Forth Worth this week, an in-your-face shout-out to all those snide Bears fans back in Illinois.

The Steelers have their Terrible Towel, of course, but guess where it’s manufactured? In Baraboo, Wis., naturally, by Packers fans.

The classic Cheesehead — which isn’t licensed by the NFL — weighs about a pound, has 25 depressions or “holes” and measures about 14 inches on each side. A large will run you $20, with the medium $13 and small $11. But those are catalog prices; like game tickets in Texas, by the weekend scalpers could send Cheesehead prices soaring to double or triple their face value.

The Foamation factory store, in a quiet neighborhood of condos and across from a park, isn’t advertised anywhere. But after a local news story last week, fans drove through substantial snow and carried out a dizzying array of Cheesehead products by the armload.

Bruno and his staff were exceedingly patient while an ESPN crew spent several hours on-site filming the harried operation. As they packed up, Bruno asked a favor.

“You guys are heading downtown?” he began tentatively. “Would you mind running a few boxes over to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart?”

More stories related to this cheesehead article, click here.

(Stay Tuned: we are only 5 posts and pages away from our 500th post here (doesn’t include our sister recipe blog, cheesemonger recipes). We have big plans for 500!!)


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