Serving a full plate: Fledgling restaurateurs succeeding in new hometown

Photo by Bill Livick. Caitlin and Cale Ryan, shown with 7-month-old son Boone, are the owners and operators of Famous Yeti’s Pizza and Wendigo restaurants in Stoughton.

Although they’ve lived in Stoughton for only three years, Cale and Caitlin Ryan have made a mark on the community through their two businesses, Famous Yeti’s Pizza and Wendigo restaurant.

They opened the pizza place in January 2012 and just a few months later a fire devastated the restaurant and other businesses in a small strip mall on North Page Street. The Ryans reopened Famous Yeti’s in September that year.

Then last August, the couple launched Wendigo in a historic building on East Main Street with the aim of bringing more good food to Stoughton diners. The restaurant uses lots of locally grown produce in recipes that the Ryans created themselves, drawing on their years of experience working at Whole Foods Market in Madison.


One of a kind

Photos by Scott De Laruelle. Jack Olson from Olson Auto Exchange shows off the trophy he won at the recent Weaver Auto Parts Autofest at the Allliant Energy Center for his 1929 Ford Model A two-door sedan he converted to a “crew cab” pick-up.

At 523,000 units, the 1929 Ford Model A two-door sedan (sale price $525) set records as the  highest U.S. production model car -- a record that stood until the 1970s. 

But none of them are quite like Jack Olson’s “Henry’s Crew Cab” conversion -- the subject of a four-year restoration project that won the top award at the recent Weaver Auto Parts Autofest in Madison.

The award has been a long time in the making. 

Olson bought the car – or the rusting hulk that was left of it – at a show in Oshkosh more than a decade ago. From there, he saw some changes he wanted to make. 


Chamber still looking for new director

The Stoughton Chamber of Commerce looks to hire a new director soon, despite an announcement last week that the position had been filled. 

Chamber visitor services director Laura Trotter told the Hub the board will make an announcement in the coming weeks about the new director.

The board of directors had announced Nancy Hoffman as Erica Dial’s replacement, but Hoffman had to decline the offer for unspecified reasons. Hoffman, a Stoughton resident since 1978, served on the Stoughton Chamber Board in the early 2000s.

Trotter said the board will go back to the pool of applicants and look for another candidate.

The new director will take over for Dial, who had served as the director since March 2013. Dial and her family are moving to Washington, where her husband started a new job in February. 


Bringing the light

Photos submitted. Caña Blanca men haul a large water tank to their village in Panama, where Stoughtonites Ryan and Justin Harkins and Tom Bewick worked to install it.

Ryan Harkins has installed renewable energy systems for the past few years in Stoughton, but a project he took on in Central America last year was unlike anything he’d ever done.

Late last May, Harkins took his skills far from home, to a remote village in the rainforests of southern Panama.

There, he, his brother Justin and a pal from the Harkins’ high school days, Tom Bewick, teamed up to bring solar electricity, with recharging capabilities for mobile phones, and a clean water station to a cluster of about 20 homes in the village.

They also wired each home so villagers can turn on a single light bulb and illuminate their world after sundown.


Universal wins Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year award

Universal Acoustic & Emission Technologies, Inc. was one of seven Wisconsin companies awarded a prestigious Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award last week. 

Universal AET was given a special award for employee development and commitment, highlighting the company’s growth, the company’s president and CEO Dick Strojinc said in a news release. 

“We’re extremely honored to be chosen for the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year distinction,” Strojinc said. “We’re proud of our long history of serving a diverse customer base that has changed and grown with the evolution of our products, solutions and technologies, and we’re committed to leading Wisconsin’s charge as it becomes a model state for supporting the manufacturing industry.”


‘Business as usual’ for local Radio Shack

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. The staff of the Stoughton Radio Shack is, front row, from left: Jodi Hanson, Bob Barnett and Nancy Krantz; back row, from left: Dan Hanson, Erik Fenton, Justin Hanson and Sebastian Amyotte.

With news that Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month, local store owner Dan Hanson has been fielding a lot of questions about the future of the Stoughton store.

Yes, they’re still open. Yes, the Radio Shack logo is still on the door and outside the building. No, there aren’t clearance sales or product liquidations.

“It’s business as usual for us,” Hanson said Tuesday. “Nothing has really changed.”

The Radio Shack distribution system is still up and running, and employees are placing orders for products they need in stock. And if those systems change, Hanson said he’s working with other vendors to make sure the store has the products that customers are looking for when they come in.

But while he does have some answers, the corporate filing has raised a lot of questions.


Apples, honey a sweet combo

Photos by Kimberly Wethal. Joseph Baird started his cidery, Mershon’s, in June 2014.

For Joseph Baird, proprietor of Mershon’s Artisan Cider in Stoughton, heritage matters.

The name Mershon is a tribute to Baird’s ancestors. Shortly after coming to the United States from Ireland, his great-great-grandfather, Henry Mershon, died and his wife Sarah remarried, taking the name Baird for herself and her children.

Joseph Baird said some of his relatives want to change the family name back to Mershon, but he feels that would be too much of a hassle.

“I don’t want to change my name, but the cider is in honor of the name that was lost,” he said.


Warm up at Fahrenheit 364

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. Fahrenheit 364 tavern is open for business across from the Stoughton Opera House. Owner Scott Sowlles has more than 50 types of beer to choose from and a warm, cozy ambiance at the site of the old Stoughton Fire Department.

If you’re downtown looking to quench a thirst and enjoy some old-school ambiance, Fahrenheit 364 has it all covered.

The bar, which opened just before the holidays, is in full swing with a wide range of beers and wine, and offers a comfortable place for people to either wind down or wind it up.

Owner Scott Sowlles was looking to start and own his own business after serving as the general manager for the now-closed Main Street Pour House, and he found the answer in the former fire station on 364 E. Main St. The name “Fahrenheit 364” is both a reference to the site’s history and a takeoff on Ray Bradbury’s famous book-burning sci-fi novel “Fahrenheit 451.”

“I wanted to stay with the firehouse theme,” Sowlles said.


New gallery, studio opens on Main Street

Photo by Bill Livick. Bill and Anita Amundson are opening the Amundson ArtHaus in downtown Stoughton on Main Street this weekend. The space will serve as Bill’s studio and gallery for his original drawings and other art pieces.

Nothing says Christmas like lawn ornaments.

Artist Bill Amundson laughs at the notion, but his parody lawn ornaments, satirical colored drawings and “wearable art” like Norwegian Viking and Green Bay Packers pins no doubt showed up under the tree in some Stoughton homes this holiday season.

Amundson opened a new art gallery and studio on Main Street in early December.

The AmundArt Hus, 194 Main St., will feature his work and represents a coming of full circle for the Stoughton native. He moved to Colorado in 1975 and returned four years ago with his wife, Anita.

“I had my first studio ever in this same building,” he told the Courier Hub. “When I was in college in Madison I had my own studio here. So I’m back exactly where I started.”


Getting ‘primal’

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. Under the watchful eye (and substantial grip) of Primal Strength and Fitness owner James Brooks, Aodan Marshall finishes a set of bench presses.

Motivation takes different forms for different types of people.

For most folks, being read last rites during a life-threatening bout with bacterial meningitis probably wouldn’t be the catalyst to becoming a powerlifter and starting their own gym.

Needless to say, most folks aren’t quite like Stoughton’s James Brooks.

The Chicago area native looks at life much differently after spending 17 days in a coma in 2005. He never knew where or how he got meningitis – “you can get a bacteria infection from just about everywhere” – but in a way, he’s got it to thank for where he is now.

A former athlete in high school who excelled at wrestling and football, Brooks was always doing something physical. That was before going through the hell caused by the infection.


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