Il Castello del Formaggio

The 6/21 Zippy strip takes us to Kenosha WI, on the highway between Chicago and Milwaukee, along the shore of Lake Michigan — to the location of Mars Cheese Castle, which is why Zippy is there:


(#1) Nothing directly to do with the two principal foci of this blog — language and linguistics, gender and sexuality — but plenty on food, pop culture (along the roadside), and absurdist comedy

As for my interests, Kenosha does have the headquarters of Jockey International — hail to men’s underwear! — and a local woolly mammoth skeleton in its museum — my totem animal! — and, best of all in mid-America’s Land of Cheese, an annual fall Cheese-A-Palooza festival (devoted to the grilled cheese sandwich and to mac and cheese). But best of all is Mars Cheese Castle.

From Wikipedia:

Mars Cheese Castle is a specialty food store, delicatessen, and taproom which sells a variety of consumable products in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Located along Interstate 94, the shop is popular among Wisconsin visitors and has been called a “cheese landmark”, “one of Wisconsin’s most recognizable cheese stores”, and “an icon for generations of I-94 travelers”. While the store is best known for its cheese, it also sells sausages and other foods, beer, wine, specialty condiments, soft drinks and Wisconsin souvenirs such as cheesehead hats.

… History: Mario Ventura, Sr., opened Mars Cheese Castle in 1947. The shop’s name was inspired by its owners, as the name Mario comes from the Roman god Mars; the “Castle” part of the name was inspired by a castle in Italy owned by Ventura’s mother. Kenosha artist George Pollard designed the store’s logo; the project was Pollard’s first job. The original store, which featured a large beer bottle on its roof, burned down in 1957; a new store was built nearby.

In 2011, a project widening Interstate 94 forced the store to relocate 50 yards (46 m) away from the freeway. The new store, over twice as large as the previous building, was designed to more closely resemble an actual castle; it features a watchtower holding the store’s wine and an entrance which resembles a drawbridge. A special statute passed by the Wisconsin Legislature allowed the store to keep its 80-foot (24 m) sign at its new location despite a state law prohibiting signs that tall.

The sign and the new building:


(#2) The sign in 2009


(#3) The new store (Roadside America photo by Vance Erwin)

The old store was apparently decidedly quirky and fun; the new store is, alas, widely described as a soulless supermarket.

One Response to “Il Castello del Formaggio”

  1. Mitch4 Says:

    I never really got the point behind a “language fun puzzle” example that was sort of popular for a while — maybe around the time of “Gravity’s Rainbow”. The sentence is:

    You never did the Kenosha kid.

    Maybe it should be in all-caps (or all lower) to obscure a choice of whether K(k)id is capitalized, to style it as part of a name. The point, I think, was in how many different readings you can get, with free substitutions of lexical senses and categories and a free hand with punctuation. I always thought: “Well, several — but not extraordinary”.

    It was maybe related to:

    Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo

    which was seen as a valuable fun example for its uniformity. It requires some looseness in applying ideas like attributive noun-modification, to get ‘bison of the city of Buffalo, NY’

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