8 food- and drink-focused businesses at the new Garver Feed Mill
New life was breathed into the old building
New life will be breathed into Garver Feed Mill this summer as it transforms from a vacant building into a stunning facility for local producers. The use of the Garver building as a food production facility is not a new idea — the United States Sugar Co. constructed the building in 1906 as a sugar beet processing factory. Hans Struck, an immigrant from Germany who founded the Struck & Irwin Fence Inc. on Williamson Street, traveled the country helping to set up sugar beet factories. Struck’s great-grandson, Tom Sylke, says Struck’s wife, Emma, told Hans, “I’ll go anywhere you want, but you only get one more move out of me.” The couple decided on Madison, where Struck helped construct the factory that would become known as the “Sugar Castle.”
As the largest factory in the state of Wisconsin at the time, the facility played an essential role in Madison’s economic development. According to Sylke, the plant could process 600 tons of beets a day but was also a model for what would now be called “sustainability” — the tops and pulp of the beets were sent back to Dane County farmers to be returned to the soil or used for cattle feed. The sugar plant remained in operation until 1924. In the 1930s, University of Wisconsin–Madison alumnus James Russell Garver converted the building into a feed mill and granary which operated until 1997 when feed processing was discontinued and the building was left vacant. At a ceremony at Garver in April 2018, Sylke’s daughter, Allison, was the ﬁrst person to lay a brick celebrating the renovation of the building that her great-great-grandfather helped construct 112 years earlier. Sylke and his family live in the Milwaukee area and also own a farm north of Madison in Marquette County.
Bryant Moroder, project manager of the Garver renovation, says the goal is to provide a place for “second-stage businesses.”
“We wanted companies with an established track record that were looking for a space to call home for the long term,” Moroder says. “We also focused on companies that are creative and looking to collaborate.” For the past several years, Moroder has sought out tenants to occupy the renovated building located on 26 acres behind Olbrich Botanical Gardens on Madison’s east side. With the stage set, the players are ﬁlling in. There will be ﬁzzy kombucha, boozy ice cream and pizza by the slice. Expect tinctures, tonics, vegan grain bowls and frozen, wild-caught Alaska salmon. Savor suave cocktails and enjoy quiet herb gardens and places to meditate. Welcome to the new Garver.
Calliope Ice Cream
Calliope Ice Cream, a small-batch ice cream business born in the basement of the Weary Traveler Freehouse on Williamson Street, was one of the ﬁrst businesses to sign on to the Garver project. “Bryant Moroder of Baum Development reached out to Calliope in early 2014, when we were still mostly unknown and only a couple years old,” says Calliope owner Staci Fritz. Fritz says Moroder is a big fan of Calliope’s brandy Old-Fashioned ice cream and pitched her the idea of having a small shop and production area at Garver. “I loved the idea of being a part of bringing this awesome old factory back to life,” says Fritz. Known for its creative ﬂavors of ice cream — a favorite is Hearty Breakfast with bacon and whiskey — Calliope will offer up to 16 varieties by the scoop and pints to take home at its shop in Garver (“or eat there — no judgment!” says Fritz). In addition to the seven ﬂavors Calliope sells at grocery stores, the shop will sell four Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. ﬂavors (“awesome ‘normal’ ice cream for people who are maybe not looking for boozy or spicy ice cream,” says Fritz). Calliope will have a rotating case of ﬂavors made in small batches on-site at Garver. Look for these ice creams to focus on seasonal ingredients and collaborations with local chefs. And because Calliope has always focused on fun, “we’ll deﬁnitely be making beer ﬂoats,” says Fritz. “And we’ve been experimenting with kombucha ﬂoats so we can work with NessAlla [Kombucha], too.”
Ian’s Pizza, Madison’s home for pizza-by-the-slice, will be venturing to the east side when it opens its doors at Garver this summer. Perhaps best known for its mac ‘n’ cheese pizza, Ian’s ﬁrst opened on Frances Street in 2001 to serve late night ‘za to hungry college students before expanding to State Street in 2005. Zach Chapman, Ian’s marketing director, says Ian’s is excited to ﬁnally serve Madison’s east side, which also expands its delivery area. While Ian’s has a lot of foot trafﬁc at its downtown restaurants, Chapman is looking forward to Garver’s proximity to the bike path and another beneﬁt of the location: “For the ﬁrst time we’ll have our own parking lot,” says Chapman. Expect a similar menu at Garver but a greater focus on a family-friendly atmosphere. “We’re working on a pizza adventure club that will reward our young customers for trying new things,” says Chapman. “Think of it like a pizza and salad passport.” Ian’s at Garver will also be the ﬁrst Madison location to serve beer, and Chapman is looking forward to partnering with local breweries to have craft beer on tap. The restaurant will also have local NessAlla Kombucha and Cadence Cold Brew on tap.
Kosa, a retreat center and spa featuring food and drinks on Garver’s second ﬂoor, is the long-time dream of founder Shilpa Sankaran. Kosa is based on ayurveda, the more than 3,000-year-old Indian tradition that, simply put, focuses on keeping things in balance to live well. In American society, many people live in a constant state of imbalance due to stress, media, work and other factors, preventing them from living to the fullest. Kosa offers guests a meditation studio, sauna and steam room — along with ayurvedic consultations and treatments such as facials or massages — in order to help people recenter themselves. Born in Bombay, India, which is now Mumbai, Sankaran immigrated with her family to the United States as a toddler, and moved to Middleton when she was 8 years old. With a business degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Sankaran relocated to Chicago to work as a management consultant and to San Francisco to start a business before returning to Madison to act as a consultant on the Garver Feed Mill project. Now Kosa has become a family affair with a team made up of Sankaran’s sisters and mother. Sankaran says food will be an important part of Kosa. “Food is medicine,” she says. “Everything we digest or don’t digest will affect our health.” Her sister, Sonya Sankaran, will oversee Kosa’s garden and kitchen. Sonya Sankaran says Kosa will offer food and drinks for spa guests based on the seasons; cold and hot beverages (think lime water in summer and chicory chai in winter), snacks and light lunches will be available. Shilpa Sankaran is excited for these types of details that will make Kosa feel more like home. “It will be a place where you feel nurtured as if it were your family,” she says.
Ledger Coffee Roasters
Richard Wirsta, founder of Ledger Coffee Roasters, is using Garver Feed Mill to launch a new dream. “I’ve been working in ﬁnance for 25 years but I never really knew what I wanted to do,” Wirsta says. “About three years ago I started getting into coffee more and loving the small-batch roasters that are popping up all over North America. Then I stumbled upon a roaster that I got a good deal on and that set everything off.” When Wirsta discovered the Garver site last October, everything fell into place. “It seemed like the perfect place to land,” he says. Ledger Coffee Roasters — Wirsta says he wanted a name that was a nod to his past life in ﬁnance — will be a cafe and small-batch roastery focusing on single-origin coffees with bright notes. In addition to a small selection of pastries, the cafe will offer simple coffee service. “We’ll focus on the quality of coffee, not the quantity,” he says. Ledger will also sell bags of beans, roasted on-site. “People can take a tour and learn about the roasting process,” Wirsta says. “I think it gives us an opportunity to get closer to the product.” Wirsta plans to offer coffee wholesale and sell online bean subscriptions. Expect some surprises at the roastery, Wirsta says. “We want to do some fun, out-in-left-ﬁeld coffees available only at Garver.” Originally from North Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, Wirsta says his hometown is a lot like the east side of Madison. “It’s becoming what it’s always had the opportunity to be,” he says.
NessAlla Kombucha, which has been brewing organic kombucha in Madison since 2008, was the ﬁrst ofﬁcial tenant of Garver Feed Mill when NessAlla moved into its new digs this past January. NessAlla founders and co-owners Vanessa Tortolano and Alla Tsypin say it was an easy decision to relocate the business into Garver. “The project came at a time when Vanessa and I were already looking for a new place,” says Tsypin. “We needed a larger space for production in order to grow as a company, and we were excited to be part of something with other like-minded producers in Madison.” NessAlla’s kombucha, a fermented, probiotic drink made from tea (NessAlla uses Rishi tea from Milwaukee), sugar, local herbs and a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) continues to grow in popularity. The company already bottles and kegs popular ﬂavors like lemongrass ginger and raspberry for wholesale distribution across the Midwest. NessAlla’s new 16,000-square-foot production facility is more than twice the size of its previous space off of South Park Street. Tsypin says the increased storage space will allow the company to experiment more with new products. Look for NessAlla’s newest line of CBD kombucha (with ﬂavors like “Butterﬂy Effect” made with jasmine tea and butterﬂy ﬂower) this summer. In addition to more refrigeration and room to grow, NessAlla’s new production space at Garver comes with another perk they didn’t have at their previous facility: “We have windows!” Tsypin says.
Sitka Salmon Shares
Sitka Salmon Shares, a boat-to-doorstep seafood company founded in 2011 that connects Alaska ﬁshermen to Midwest consumers, is moving into Garver’s first ﬂoor. Marsh Skeele, a second-generation Alaska ﬁsherman and now co-owner of Sitka Salmon, catches king salmon, coho salmon, halibut and keta salmon from his boat, The F/V Loon. “Hook and line ﬁsheries, we have the poorest but most noble ﬁshermen,” Skeele says. “For those boats, the seabird names are very popular.” Returning to the Midwest to teach cooking classes or attend Sitka Salmon pop-up events, Skeele says he loves that he gets to personally interact with the people who eat the ﬁsh he catches. “When you sell your ﬁsh to a big ﬁsh plant, it’s a global commodity. All the ﬁsh disappear into a global supply chain,” he says. “As someone who loves food, it is really awesome to make that connection to the end user.” As a CSF, or Community Supported Fishery, Sitka offers people in the Midwest ﬁsh “shares.” Each month a frozen supply of Alaskan wild-caught ﬁsh will arrive on your doorstep, complete with cooking directions and recipe ideas. Sitka’s new space at Garver will act mainly as a distribution hub for home deliveries and farmers’ markets but will also have a small retail section of in-season fish. Skeele is excited about Garver’s location in the center of Madison and its proximity to the bike path. “We’ve fantasized about doing bike deliveries for years,” Skeele says. Look for more pop-up events and collaborations, too. “Our new space at Garver is an opportunity to do more events with the community,” Skeele says.
When Surya Cafe opens in Garver Feed Mill it will be Madison’s ﬁrst all-vegan restaurant. As Perennial yoga studio in Fitchburg — where Surya is located — adds a location to Garver, Surya is also expanding to Garver but will have its own separate cafe space with a large, south-facing patio just off the bike path. Offering an entirely vegan and gluten-free menu, Surya’s seasonal fare includes smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, wafﬂes, salads and hearty bowls of grains and vegetables. At the Garver location, Surya Cafe’s head chef, Lauren Montelbano, is looking forward to using Olbrich Botanical Gardens as inspiration. “We want the space to feel as though plants have taken over and we are merely a part of the garden,” Montelbano says. Expect a plant-based menu with an emphasis on “food as medicine,” she says. “Many spices, herbs and primary ingredients have been chosen for their medicinal and healing properties.” Montelbano is also working on a mocktail or “potions” menu for customers to enjoy as a healthy alternative to alcoholic beverages. “At the root of all of our decisions is the health of our customers, our staff and the planet as a whole,” Montelbano says.
Underground Food Collective
In addition to providing the food and space for special events, Underground Food Collective is partnering with Garver to run a bar and lounge on Garver’s main ﬂoor that will be open to the public when the space isn’t being used for events. “We’re really excited about the bar,” says Underground Food Collective frontman Jonny Hunter. “The classic nature of the space along with the location will make it really unique.” Expect a forward-thinking wine program focusing on single-vineyard and natural wines. There will be snacks and “suave, comfortable, seasonal cocktails geared toward the neighborhood, as well as cyclists passing by on a weekend ride,” says Mark Bystrom, Underground’s beverage director. Hunter believes Garver offers limitless possibilities. “We’re excited to help Garver become a food destination,” Hunter says. “Madison doesn’t have a place that celebrates its food heritage in the food scene here and I’m excited to collaborate and highlight our producers.”
Gather at Garver
A central element of the Garver Feed Mill restoration is the event space. Transformed from a vacant ruin to a restored public gathering place, the space has exposed brick, a 280-foot-long mezzanine, original 60-foot steel trusses, 29 historic windows and five new skylights, says special events coordinator Tia Ranney. The venue will have the ability to host more than 500 guests for weddings, corporate events, galas, music experiences and more. Underground Food Collective will partner with Garver Feed Mill to offer local and seasonal custom menus for events.
Erica Krug is a Madison-based writer.
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