Wilson’s Cheese Shoppe – A family tradition since 1939 – Celebrating our 80th Anniversary in Business!
Since 1939, people have sought out Wilson's famous Pinconning Cheese for nutritious and delicious cheese handcrafted from the milk of grass-fed cows. Our cheese was free of gluten, rBGH, and antibiotics long before health food was fashionable.
This year we celebrate our 80th year of operation at our family-owned business in the small northern Michigan town of Pinconning. Our business is steeped in family tradition and small-town entrepreneurship.
It all began in 1915 when Dan Horn, a Russian immigrant who resided in Pound, Wisconsin and a cheesemaker by trade, moved to Pinconning and created our signature item, Old-Fashioned Pinconning Cheese. The Horn family then constructed a cheese factory and sold the cheese at the adjacent building, the “Horn Grocery Market” on old US-23 in the City of Pinconning.
In 1939, Dan sold the small old grocery store to his married daughter and her husband, Inez (Horn) & Lawrence Wilson (also a cheesemaker by trade), who moved here from Detroit. The Wilson’s came up with the unique idea of a store specializing in all kinds of cheese and Wilson’s Cheese Shoppe was born. By 1941, the Wilson’s outgrew the small grocery store and then constructed a new, much larger building. They opened Wilson's Cheese Shoppe directly across the street from the original factory and grocery building to sell her father’s creation, Pinconning Cheese.
In the fall of 1942, the original Horn-Pinconning Cheese factory burned and Dan Horn passed away, so the Wilsons immediately erected a small cheese factory just south of the new store building so that the same Pinconning Cheese could be made by the Wilsons. In 1947, the factory could not supply enough cheese to accommodate the sales demand so the Wilsons contracted with two other local creameries’ using the original formula owned by the Horn/Wilson Family to produce the local specialty for Wilson’s Cheese Shoppe. In 1950, the Wilsons expanded their retail store and added on a new building to house a restaurant and “Wilson’s Dairy Bar” was born. This new addition accommodated travelers going north on busy US-23 through this period of long hours and late-night operations. In 1958, the old factory building and attached hallway were torn down and a new two-story addition was built, and this is how the building is seen to the present day! In 1965, the famous Wilson’s Cheese giant mouse mascots were made with one being placed on the building (named Inez) and the other (named Jenny for Virginia Peacock) was placed on a trailer and paraded all over the state and still is a favorite family tradition for picture taking!
During the 1940s and 1950s, as more and more people traveled the newly paved roads through Pinconning to destinations Up North on the sunrise side US-23 corridor, the Master of Marketing, Inez Wilson, saw the opportunity to share our flavorful cheese beyond our local, loyal fan base. Through the late 1950’s and early 60’s, Inez Wilson promoted the signature product Pinconning Cheese and our town by radio coverage, road signs, local celebrity endorsements, networking political and business contacts and erecting landmark giant Wilson mouse mascots at the shoppe’s location. Inez created a tasty reason to stop and shop in our tiny town and was the driving force for the State of Michigan to designate the City of Pinconning as the “Cheese Capital of Michigan."
Through Inez Wilson’s marketing efforts and entrepreneurship, the business thrived. In 1958, the third generation of the Horn-Wilson Family joined the business operation, daughter Virginia (Wilson) and husband, Merton Peacock. As a family team Inez, Virginia (Jenny) and Mert operated and expanded the business operation branding the now famous Pinconning Cheese and adding many other specialty domestic and imported food products, Michigan-made items, wines, and spirits.
After the passing of Inez Wilson in the early 1990’s, Mert and Jenny Peacock continued to operate the family business until 1998 when they decided to retire. They then sold to the Mike Hasso Family, who operated it until 2001 and then sold it to Keith & Kim Knochel. Continuing a family operating tradition, the Knochels sold the business in 2014 to Brian and Debby Saha, long-time residents of Pinconning and cheese entrepreneurs for over 32 years.
The family tradition lives on in this new century at Wilson’s Cheese Shoppe as we strive to continue the family-oriented business and present quality products with the addition of our daughter and son-in-law, Brooke (Saha) and Ryan Kleinhans, to our management team at Wilson’s.
As our friendly cheese shoppe continues to grow based on the past traditions and ever-expanding product lines, we promise to never stray from the family-oriented values that our staff and customers love. We will continue to present new ideas, quality products and, of course, our most popular Pinconning Cheese, which is the foundation of Wilson’s Cheese Shoppe. When you shop at our store, samples are plenty and we still cut our famous cheese fresh off the wheel and wrap it up the old-fashioned way in paper, with a smile of appreciation for your continued business!
Today, though, we offer much more than traditional cheeses at our counter. Our online catalog has built a global following. In addition to classic cheeses, we also serve artisan imported cheeses, homemade cheese spreads, creamy fudge, savory smoked fish and meats, specialty condiments, baked goods and more. You can shop online at www.WilsonCheese.com
So, sit back, relax, and browse our online catalog. We’ll provide the snacks directly to your door or stop in and see us on your way north! We hope the next 80 years will be as successful as the past 80 years and very much appreciate your continued support and patronage!