Switching over to the south side of Main Street here at the Kickapoo River and heading east back uptown, we find the old cheese factory building. Now owned by CROPP, the factory became a very busy place in 2013 after the fire at the Organic Valley headquarters building. Besides the regular work of packaging organic cheese products at the site, the upstairs offices at the building were busy with relocated staff. Temporary offices were once again utilized in the parking lot for employees without a place to work due to the fire, but by 2016 those temporary buildings were gone.
The Organic Valley Retail Store Outlet located on the west end of the cheese factory remains a very busy store in the village. The entrance area to the store and the grounds next door were improved during 2015. In 2016, the cheese packaging line that used the old cheese factory building was moved to a new OV building in Cashton. Organic Valley may be making plans to enlarge the retail store with the new vacated space.
To the south on Mill Street, M&M Construction, owned by David Mick, operates out of the garage built by the Harris brothers back in 1974-75. To the south of the construction business stands a large Quonset hut building that used to be located at the Schroeder’s mink ranch north of La Farge, that was bought by the federal government as part of the dam project. The building was moved to town in the 1970’s and today is a storage building for the village.
If we go all the way to the south end of Mill Street, we come to the newest park in the village, the Riverside Park. The village developed the park using several properties of former residences in this part of town that were bought out after the 2008 flood. The park features a walking trail along the river that follows the old railroad track bed. The trail has interpretive signs along the way telling the history of the village. A new pier was added to Riverside Park’s spring-fed fishing pond in 2016. The park also features a 9-hole disc golf course on the property.
On the southeast corner of the busy intersection of Mill and Main Streets is the La Farge Car Wash, owned by Earl Nelson. Located in the gas station that was last operated by Steve Olson, the car wash has an indoor and outdoor carwash area plus a vacuum for cleaning vehicle interiors.
To the east of the car wash is the former town hall and storage shed of the Town of Stark. After Stark moved to their new buildings on Corps Road, Earl Nelson purchased the lots and building in 2012 to become part of his La Farge Truck Center operation. In November 2016, Don Potter Realty moved their offices into the old Stark Town Hall.
Across the alley are the La Farge Truck Center’s sales offices and garage. Selling International trucks and operating one of the busiest service departments in western Wisconsin, Nelson employs twenty people in the LTC operation, which is one of the largest employers on La Farge’s Main Street. He owns the rest of the property along Main Street up to Silver Street. This includes the old village pump house that is next to the main garage, then the former Fred Major house and the empty corner lot where the Fulmer/Clark’s/school bus garage once stood.
On the second block south on Silver Street, the old fire house, built in 1974, is now used to store village and utility vehicles and equipment. To the south is another utility building that houses a generator used in emergencies to produce electricity for the village and surrounding areas. Across the street is the former ambulance garage, which was built with the help of donated work crews by the Amish. When the ambulance squad moved to the new EMS Building in 2010, La Farge Maintenance purchased the old ambulance squad building.
The Zzip Stop convenience store and gas station sits on the southeast corner of Silver and Main Streets. Owned by Shane Nottestad, the Zzip Stop is open seven days a week and is the busiest place on Main Street. This business did an amazing remodel starting in the fall of 2015. A new canopy and gas pumps announced a change for the La Farge business to a Gulf Station, the first station in Wisconsin for that company after an absence of many years. In addition, the interior of the Zzip Stop had a complete makeover with the kitchen, seating and display areas being totally reorganized. A beer cave was added to the beverage sales area and two new checkout stations were installed.
When the brick building next door to the Zzip Stop (the old post office building) started to fall down in April of 2013, the cascade of bricks spilled over into the convenience store’s parking lot. Eventually, the building was condemned by the village and then purchased by Shane Nottestad, who tore the crumbling old building down and hauled it away to the landfill in Viroqua. The empty lot was graveled over and now provides additional parking for the Zzip Stop.
La Farge’s post office is on the corner of the intersection with Bird Street. Jon Zahm constructed the current post office building in 1991. The village’s post office was moved from the former site in the old brick hotel annex building next door, just to the west. Besides an expanded work and office area for handling the mail, the new post office includes a lobby with customer mailboxes, a parking area and a drive-thru mail drop-off lane.
To the south of the post office is the River Valley Motel. Built in 1972-73 and opened by Dick and Bea Gabrielson as the Lakeland Motel, the business has ten rooms for rent and is often full during hunting and fishing seasons and other peak demand times. Across Bird Street at the site of the old La Farge Enterprise newspaper building is the small engine repair shop owned and operated by Bob Hysel.
Moving back up Main Street, we come to the village’s bank. Owned by the Bosshard family, the bank is now a branch of the Peoples State Bank of Hillsboro. It has eight employees and some of those employees work at the bank in Readstown, formerly a branch of the bank in La Farge. The cement block bank building on the corner has served as a bank for the village since the 1920’s.
There is only one tavern or bar on La Farge’s Main Street now. Phil & Deb’s Town Tap, located in the old Opera House building next to the bank, claims the distinction as the only bar in La Farge where you can wet your whistle. (Although off-sale beer and liquor purchases are still available at the Zzip Stop and Bergum’s Food Mart and beer and wine may be enjoyed with your meal at Sisters Place.) That’s rather hard to believe of a town where twenty years earlier three drinking establishments were open on Main Street. Twenty years before that La Farge had a “Black List” with two-dozen names. People on that list were banned from drinking in any of La Farge’s bars and had to use their wiles to find other ways to get their whiskey and wine. The Town Tap also operates a full service kitchen with daily lunch specials, homemade pizzas and evening dinner specials.
Next door to the Town Tap was Dawn Nemec’s Country View Embroidery Shop. It was a new business in La Farge, started in 2013 that specialized in custom embroidered clothes of all kinds and other promotional materials. But the business was closed down in 2015 and in April 2016 the store was renovated into a beauty parlor that is operated by JoLynn Skrede. This newest business on La Farge’s Main Street is known as Jo’s Salon.
The Sister’s Place Restaurant is the next business on this block. The business is owned by sisters Deb Nelson and Kris Walker, who also work together at the bank, and the restaurant operates seven days a week except for the winter season when it is closed on Sundays.
To the west in the old drug store business space is HTC Realty By Design, which moved to this location in the summer of 2013. The realty office, operated by Kathy Appleman, was formally located in the brick building next to the Zzip Stop. But when that building began to collapse in the spring of the year, the realty offices were moved into new offices at this location.
The Kreigh Art Ceramics display room occupies the next storefront. From a working studio in the back of the building, Kyle Kreigh is constantly creating new ceramic products for sale that are always on display in the front room.
To the east of the ceramics showroom are the offices of the Village of La Farge and La Farge Utilities. Village Clerk Kim Walker and Utilities Secretary Virginia Bilek are usually working at the office every weekday.
On the east corner of this block is the La Farge Hardware Store owned and operated by Doug Clark. The corner building is the oldest store in La Farge, originally constructed by Charles DeJean in 1875 for use as a general store. Located on the busy intersection of State Street (State Highway 131 coming from Viola) and Main Street, this building has housed some type of business continuously in the village for over 135 years. Clark has operated the well-stocked hardware store since 2004. Down the block to the south on State Street is the old locker plant building located on the alley, now used for storage. Further down the block the old KP Hall that sits on the corner is now a second location for Jake Sell’s sprawling resale business.
Across Snow Street is the old La Farge Medical and Dental Clinic building. The VMH Medical Clinic left this site in June of 2015 and relocated to the new clinic on Mill Street. However, the dental practice of Dr. Rose Wels remained in the building. Dr. Wels has practiced dentistry here in La Farge for thirty years, beginning her practice in 1986. With the medical clinic part of the building empty, the village began to seek tenants for the space. In the fall of 2015, Carl Peterson started a chiropractic and nutrition practice in the west end of the old clinic building. Originally only open on a limited schedule, Peterson’s business proved to be very successful and expanded hours were begun in the spring of 2016.
Coming back north on the east side of State Street, we have the law office of Phil Stittleburg. With his practice at the site since 1972, Stittleburg is the third lawyer to work out of the building (following John Drew and Ralph Freeze), which has housed a law office continuously since 1899. Across the alley to the north is the old shoe store, which is now owned by Stittleburg and used for storage. A large pine tree in the yard north of the old shoe store still serves proudly as the village’s Christmas tree.
Continuing north, on the southwest corner of the intersection is the site of the old Mobil gas station. The building and lot sat empty for all of 2013 after previously being the home of Countryside Motors, where used cars were once sold. After a brief time as a welding shop and later serving as a base for a food cart in 2014-15, the old gas station lot, on a great corner where two state highways cross, now hosts junk cars and trucks.
The massive C&S Motors Garage building sits in the middle of this block. It was the home of C&S Motors & Sports Shop. LaVerne Campbell usually opened up his sports shop in the garage’s office space on most days, but by 2015 his failing health didn’t allow that to happen any more. The automotive repair and service work in the garage done by Mark Campbell had ceased operating earlier in 2013.
On the southeast corner of the intersection of Maple and Main was Irv Gudgeon’s Woodworking Shop. Housed in the old building that had originally been a blacksmith shop and then a longtime gas station, Irv built picnic tables, outhouses and doghouses in his shop. As he had done for many previous Decembers, in 2013 Irv sold Christmas trees (grown on the Matthes Tree Farm outside of Viola) displayed in the front of his shop where the gas pumps used to be. But age forced Irv to give up his business in 2014. (Did anybody sell Christmas trees in La Farge this year?)
Moving far up Main Street to the east end of town, we see the new Free Methodist Church, located one block south on Cherry Street. The church is the busiest in town with regular church services, weddings and funerals. A large dining room with kitchen located adjacent to the church sanctuary provides a wonderful space for meals. This beautiful new facility was dedicated in January 2004 and under the leadership of Pastor Mark Phillips the congregation has grown steadily since. The church has taken a very active stance in the community and houses the village’s Food Pantry, with distributions made in the building each month. The church maintains a historical connection to the old Free Methodist Church located on Main Street a block away (now the home of Traci & Doug Albright as well as the center for Doug’s electric & solar business) as the bell from that old church is preserved and displayed on the front lawn of the new church.
Across the alley from the new church is the Superlative Skateboard Park. Located on a former residence site along Main Street, the park, which was developed through the leadership of Mark Phillips and others in the village, features several cement ramps and chutes for skateboarders to test their skills. The skateboard park was dedicated in 2009 and was made possible through a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
The new firehouse or ESB (Emergency Services Building), which houses the fire trucks, ambulances, and village police car is located across Cherry Street, to the west of the Free Methodist Church. It was opened in 2010 as a replacement for the old firehouse and the ambulance garage and came about through the procurement of a federal grant after the flood of 2008. The building is dedicated to the fire and EMS volunteers, past, present and future, who make such a difference in our community of La Farge. Village President Steve Donovan, who led the effort to raise funds and apply for grants to complete the new building and move the fire department and ambulance squad out of the floodway, made the dedication at the building’s grand opening in September 2010. The new ESB also provides meeting space for village board meetings, elections and other municipal events.So, for now, that concludes our stroll along Main Street in La Farge. My legs are a little sore from the hike, as I don’t get out as much as I used to.