Dairy chic

(First published in the July 3, 2019 issue of City Pages)

Mary Gallagher completely remodeled the former Navieve Fromagerie, but the core business remains unchanged.


Mary Gallagher in her newly remodeled The Milk Merchant—formerly Navieve Fromagerie.

When Mary Tokarz Gallagher went before the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee in May for a liquor license, she said she’d be doing a little “light remodeling” when she took over Navieve Fromagerie.

That turned out to be an understatement. On June 21, Gallagher reopened the cheese shop as The Milk Merchant and a person entering the space might be hard-pressed to recognize it.

The light remodeling became something more extensive, Gallagher admits. “Once we started doing the floors and ceiling, we kept finding more space to build,” Gallagher says. Several walls were removed, the counter rearranged and long, tall white tables with black stools are well places to provide plenty of seating.

The result can be described as dairy chic — a kinfolk, rustic accented look with clean white walls and subway tile, with darker wood floors and black accents, and a few well placed succulents along the extensive windows looking out at the Dudley Tower and the rest of the near west side landscape.

Otherwise, the main focus remains fancy cheese, a niche that before hadn’t been filled in Wausau. And indeed, several customers during the course of 30 minutes or so stopped in, and mainly they were interested in the cheese.

Gallagher is no stranger to retail. Originally from the Wausau area, she owned a bead and jewelry store in Chicago for several years. She also spent plenty of time in the food industry.

Cheese is something of a new endeavor for Gallagher, and is learning everything she can. The former owner, Maggie Christians, is staying on to help in the ways of gouda and the like, and with catering and workshops.

Cheese runs in Gallagher’s family. Her husband Ryan Gallagher’s grandparents, Ray and Marie Goldbach, started Marathon Cheese in 1952.

Gallagher has expanded the shop’s offerings to include more grocery items, chocolate, and goodies that pair well with cheese. A new wine wall significantly expands the store’s wine selection. Gallagher is planning to serve wine by the glass along with cheese trays. There’s a stand in the center of the store with fancy olive oils and vinegars.

She also sells some non-food items such as Swig water bottles and tote bags. And ice cream is also on offer, like it was under Navieve.

She’s thinking about eventually offering lunch. Navieve served lunch for a while but stopped; Gallagher says she wants to make sure she can do it in a way that makes sense, especially for customers who need to get back to work quickly.

What prompted Gallagher to want to buy a cheese shop? She says it started with seeing a story in City Pages about Christians looking to sell the operation. “My husband and I looked at each other, and he said you should find out more about it,” Gallagher says.