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The transformation of Garver Feed Mill from abandoned building to destination food production facility is underway. Construction began last December on the building located on Madison’s east side behind Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Garver Feed Mill was built in 1906 and first served as a sugar beet processing facility before operating as a feed mill and granary for 66 years. The mill shut down in 1997 and the building stood vacant for 20 years until the City of Madison and Baum Revision, a Chicago-based development company committed to historic preservation, finalized plans to start renovations to turn it into a production facility for Madison’s growing food industry.
Bryant Moroder, Madison east side resident and member of Baum Revision’s development team, says he is excited to return the building to its historic roots while focusing on Madison food businesses that have started up, grown too big for their current spaces and are looking for a new location to call home. “Our goal was to produce that home,” Moroder says.
One of those businesses looking to expand is Calliope Ice Cream, a company founded by Jason Borgmann six years ago in the basement of the Weary Traveler Freehouse. “The Weary gave Jason space in the basement to go all mad scientist with ice cream,” says Staci Fritz, owner of Calliope. “He was making eight pints at a time — very small batch!”
When Fritz, who works as account manager at Ian’s Pizza, was given the task of finding out “who was making that crazy delicious ice cream for Weary,” she set up a meeting with Borgmann who said he would sell his ice cream to Ian’s, but that what he really wanted were business partners. Fritz jumped at the opportunity to become a partner in the company. “I was like, ‘I could sell the hell out of this ice cream,’” Fritz recalls thinking. Fritz became partner and took over administrative duties. Two years ago, she bought Borgmann out of the company.
In order to sell ice cream at grocery stores, it must be produced at a dairy processing plant, something that the Weary Traveler basement is not. All current seven flavors of Calliope’s ice cream, including Brandy Old Fashioned, Hot Peanut Butter, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Graham Cracker and Hearty Breakfast (with bacon and whiskey) are produced at another Madison ice cream company, the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. Calliope pints can now be found at grocery stores across the city including Hy-Vee markets, Jenifer Street Market, Woodman’s West, Willy St. Co-op North and Miller & Sons Verona, and restaurants including the Weary Traveler, Pasqual’s Cantina and Lone Girl Brewing Company.
But when Moroder — who Fritz says is a big fan of Calliope’s Brandy Old Fashioned ice cream — approached her four years ago about a space in the Garver building, Fritz knew it was an opportunity to expand. “This will be our chance to work with local producers and start doing seasonal flavors,” Fritz says. “This is the place to have some fun.”
Fritz says while Chocolate Shoppe will continue to make Calliope’s current flavors, new flavors will be produced at Garver. The space will also serve as a scoop shop with scoops and pints available of 12-16 rotating flavors. Fritz loves dreaming up new flavors and has plans to make balsamic strawberry and a jalapeño cornbread flavor with local honey. After a recent trip to Cuba, she also plans to make a mojito-flavored ice cream, but doesn’t want to get typecast. “I don’t want to be known as the place that only does boozy drinks as ice cream, but it would be a really awesome ice cream,” Fritz says.
In addition to Calliope, several other Madison companies have signed on to move in to the renovated building — set to open next spring — including Ian’s Pizza, Sitka Salmon Shares, NessAlla Kombucha, Underground Catering and Kosa, a wellness spa. Noting Garver’s location in a neighborhood close to the bike path, Olbrich Gardens and the new Olbrich Park Biergarten, Moroder wanted to take advantage of the growing demand for public space. “Our vision is to build a community where producers can interact with people who enjoy food and drink,” Moroder says. “And Calliope was the exact kind of business we wanted.”
Fritz says she is really excited to move into Garver. “It will be huge,” Fritz says. “We will be able to do what Calliope was born to do, which is really have fun with ice cream.”
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