Made in the Fox Cities

From salsa and stoneware to candles and clothing, we assembled a list of products made by local artists, bakers, crafters and designers.

In January 2006, we ran a story called “Made in Northeast Wisconsin”, which featured an assortment of local manufacturers in the region. This year, we are taking our philosophy, celebrating the place we call home, a step further and focusing on goods made right here in the Fox Cities.

A Day in the Hands of…

The Fox Cities is quietly famous for skillfully made goods.

Does the name Mark Stewart strike a chord? He’s the guitarist for Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel, and he owns a Kaukauna-crafted Petros Guitar.

For more than 35 years, Bruce Petros has been creating beautifully designed guitars for musicians all over the world. For the last 10 years, his son Matt has worked with him.

Unique design and a dedication to perfection are what set Petros Guitars apart from the rest. Bruce’s designs are unmatched by any manufacturer and made from only the best wood.

“It always seems like the current design is my favorite,” says Bruce. Petros’ current design is Tunnel 13, made from 130-year-old virgin Redwood salvaged from the location of the “Last Great American Train Robbery” in southwestern Oregon.

Petros Guitars turns out about 30 handcrafted guitars per year.

Another business driven by handcrafted wares, Sunset Hill Stoneware in Dale, caters to organizations looking for large numbers of ceramic mugs.

Owner Tom Dunsirn is anticipating the launch of a new website allowing anyone to purchase the handcrafted, customizable kitchenware. Customers will be able to pick the style of mug and select from a wide variety of artwork to adorn the side of the piece.

Starting the company with a college friend in 1997, Dunsirn has a large staff of artists creating at least 400 original pieces a day. The business continues to grow as a ceramic dishware source for several Fox Cities businesses.

M’m M’m Goods

What better to go with your morning coffee (in a Sunset Hill mug, of course) than toast and fruit spreads from Butter It Up in Appleton?

What first started as a test-run in 2004 quickly became Donna Klausen’s passion. Butter It Up, which was licensed in 2006, jars a variety of flavorful spreads and butters, such as zesty raspepper, apricot tailgate mustard, cranapple orange, sugar-free blueberry apple honey and white chocolate strawberry creme.

“These spreads go beyond the breakfast table,” says Klausen. “You can use the Piña Colada spread as a glaze over salmon, tilapia or ham.” In fact, Klausen even sells a cookbook with a section devoted to each flavor of spread!

With retail sold at the Appleton farm market and Simon’s Specialty Cheese store in Little Chute, it isn’t hard to find these tasty spreads.

On the other end of the condiment spectrum is Menasha business Colleen’s Tough Times. Neenah resident Bob Lace, co-owner and chef of the licensed commercial kitchen, takes “the customer is always right” policy seriously by working suggestions from his loyal customers into Tough Times’ gourmet vinegar and mustard flavors like rosemary basil.

“We always give the customer more than they pay for,” Bob says. “That’s our motto.” And it’s true; until recently, they hadn’t raised their prices in 16 years.

The woman behind the name and recipes, Colleen, is also Bob’s wife. She convinced Bob to join the business in 1991. Today, Bob runs the kitchen and store full-time while Colleen teaches at Moraine Park in Fond du Lac.

Pizzas are still a prevalent local product today.

Orv’s Pizza in Kaukauna started as a small take-and-bake shop in Appleton in 1963 after Orville Kositzke and his brother, Clarence, were inspired by Chicago pizza. It has grown to include a pizzeria-style crust and Italian-style pasta retailed in most Midwest grocery stores.

In 2009, Tom and Amanda Ritschel and Rocco Vanden Wyngaard started making Godere Italian–Inspired Salsa in Appleton with a simple recipe and garden fresh ingredients. Their recipe flourished just like their garden into four unique salsas, including chunky green tomato, and can be found at Appleton and Menasha farm markets, as well as their online store.

“Smell” Goods

From bath salts and body butter to soaps and scents, there are plenty of places in the Fox Cities to find the “smell” goods you’re looking for.

With a mission to go green, Shelley Nystrom opened Eco Candle Co. in 2004 in downtown Neenah. Her products are made from soy instead of beeswax, which means the candles burn cleaner and longer.

The eco-friendly company also makes oils and bath and body products. “I’ve always been interested in being good to the earth and doing things that are healthy for you,” Nystrom says.

Nystrom and her team are in the process of relocating to Appleton’s College Avenue with hopes of reopening early this fall. Their new location provides a larger sales floor, offices and more space for manufacturing.

You can find Eco Candle products at the Appleton and Neenah farm markets.

In 2003, Pam Keller started Almavi Skincare out of Oshkosh. Almavi, which is Latin for “nourishing,” creates made-from-scratch products containing all-natural vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Keller’s line of moisturizers and soaps naturally rejuvenate dry skin by using goat milk instead of water.

Equipped with a kitchen and her crock-pot, Patti Ehaney of Appleton had everything she needed to make her own soaps, salves and sprays when she started Soap Dance in 2000. Her mission was and still is to create products that are good for people and easy on the environment. Using all-natural ingredients, Soap Dance retails lip balms, lotions and botanical mists. “I wanted to use more natural products for myself and my three daughters,” Ehaney says.

Ehaney sets up her Soap Dance booth at Appleton’s summer and winter farm markets and the Menasha Farm Market every year.

Doggie Delights

Delighting dogs and owners alike, these all-natural pet bakeries are sure to have your hounds howling for more.

Jeff and Michele Oostenbrug searched high and low for an all-natural treat that would please their picky pooch, Maxwell. When they kept coming up empty, they started Maxwell’s All Natural Party Treats, made from 100 percent pure beef liver.

By October 2009, they outgrew their kitchen and moved to a manufacturing plant in Kaukauna. Look for their tent at the Neenah and Appleton farm markets.

For pups suffering from doggie breath, Two Paws Up Bakery has just the treat!

Alan and Ann Noyce started the bakery in 2002, and opened a retail location in 2005 when business grew too big for their basement. Located downtown Appleton, the bakery offers 14 “gourmutt” dog treats, including hypoallergenic treats, cakes and even treats for doggie breath.

Fabulous Fashion

People donate old clothes because they are out of style and, well… old. A group of imaginative designers with Goods Made Good is making new clothing pieces from discarded clothes that we see at our local Goodwill stores.

Conceptualized by Robin Janson, president of Urban Evolutions, Goods Made Good is a collaboration program between Janson and Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin. Reusing old and damaged clothing and employing people with disabilities or troubled pasts benefits both the community and the environment. “We’re saving our landfills and, most importantly, we are creating jobs,” Janson explains.

After the design team finishes a pattern, it goes over to the Shiner Center in Appleton where Goodwill participants and team members stitch together scarves, skirts, shrugs and headbands.

Susan Allen opened Susan G. Allen Jewelry in 2003 ready to create anything and everything her customers wanted. Out of her small space in Appleton’s Between the Locks building, Allen also works with Macy’s in Chicago designing glamorous, yet practical, bridal jewelry. “I don’t want you to wear it for one day,” Allen says. “I want you to wear it every day.”

Organically Correct

Going green is a trend that isn’t going anywhere.

Case in point, Greenville’s Backyard Organics, the first “safe” lawn care business in Wisconsin. The business was started by Dan Dieck in 2006, but is owned today by Klay Heise.

He says it’s safe to use with kids and pets because it’s not made with chemicals. Instead, Backyard Organics uses ingredients like corn gluten and compost. “They can walk behind me as I’m treating the lawn and they’re not in any danger,” says Heise.

Go the extra green mile and shop for goods made here in the Fox Cities. Not only will it have a positive impact on our local economy, but generate a feel-good mood on the main streets of our community.

—By Mandy Acre & Lindsay Dal Porto

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