The Country Store

27 09 2009

By Sarah MilnarJan and Roy - by Meredith Hart

At the Country Store, owners Jan and Roy know their vendors personally.

On the white walls of their farm-fresh food store hang family portraits, newspaper articles and historic photos of the cheese-makers, growers and producers that supply the Country Store.

“That’s a nice family,” said Jan, pointing to a family portrait of one vendor.

Jan continued down the hall to a newspaper clipping of Green County’s Toni Blum Seitz, made famous not only by her superb baking but her yodeling skills. Jan hurried to the back office to turn on Blum Seitz’s yodeling album.

The sounds of Monroe’s Swiss heritage echoed through the Country Store.

In 2004, Jan and Roy opened the Country Store on Highway 69. The store serves the city of Monroe and many Illinois travelers on their way north to Wisconsin. The husband and wife are originally from families of dairy farmers. In his earlier days, Roy exported Wisconsin cattle all over the world. He always went for the local, quality product to export, he said.

Local Jam - by Meredith HartJan and Roy try to get products sold in their store from local vendors. They sell Klondike Feta produced just down the highway. They’ve even got a special, sealed-off spot in the cooler for Limburger cheese made by the only United States Limburger producer, the Chalet Cheese Cooperative of Monroe. Jan and Roy’s daughter grinds the wheat they sell in bread mixes. Quilts of intricate colors and patterns made by local artisans are displayed in the back. Cage-free, free-range eggs from the farm of a friend chill in the cooler. Homemade Amish breads and pies line the shelves. The Apple Crumb, Banana Cream and Chocolate Cream pies are some of the top sellers. Jan said the Country Store has a set of regulars that come in on pie days. Jan has even been invited to the wedding of one of her Amish vendors, she said.

The Country Store also specializes in grass-fed meats.The Country Store Sign - by Meredith Hart

“I can tell everyone where their meat comes from,” said Jan.

An entire cooler is dedicated to varieties of locally grown meat, including original bratwurst products such as Peanut Butter Swiss Brats, Beer Brats, and the classic Green County Brat.

Jan said she loves the locally grown meats because she can brown them and no grease appears in her pan.

The local community Jan and Roy support by selling local foods at the Country Store encourages them. Jan said some people get turned off by slightly higher prices and don’t consider quality. However, Jan tries to entice customers by keeping a variety of local products in her store.

“Every order I make is something new,” she said. “It’s exhausting but really fun.”

To view more photos of the Monroe Country Store, please see the Flickr slideshow.

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