Year of the unusual

(First published in the December 19, 2018 issue of City Pages)

In review: Central Wisconsin in 2018 saw a lot of expansions, non-profits and unique startups


Mike Masgay at a-soshel in Plover, announced earlier in 2018 that he was planning a new restaurant, Tine and Cellar, in Weston—and it’s slated to open in January.

The past year, Wausau and Central Wisconsin didn’t see a lot of major business openings, but certainly a lot of expansions and small, unique startups. These latter often weren’t the kind of businesses you could walk into and buy something; many of them were services or online businesses. Some of them were new non-profits with some impressive aims. And some were local organizations expanding or bringing national tourneys to town. And a lot businesses changed hands this year.

Perhaps the biggest news still in the works is that come January, Tine and Cellar restaurant will open in Weston. Run by Mike Masgay, owner of the chic Plover restaurant a-soshel, Tine and Cellar will feature 101 beer drafts, fancy cocktails and a solid wine selection, paired with European cuisine focusing primarily on food from Eastern Europe.

The restaurant building broke ground over the summer and is currently in the process of hiring staff, Masgay says. Not only will the decor be handled by Randy Verhasselt of Evolutions in Design, but Verhasselt even had some influence on the building’s design itself, Masgay says. If a-soshel is any indication, Tine and Cellar ought to be a visual feast, Masgay says. The restaurant is aiming for a Jan. 11 grand opening.

We’re not saying no new brick and mortar businesses opened. Earlier in the year Wausau got the wonderful La Taqueria on 17thAvenue, opening in the building that once housed Blockbuster Video, when that was a thing.

Meraki Salon and Tattoo, with it’s inmates to successful businesswomen story, opened on Third Avenue; Skin Mint, the lovely aesthetics and skin clinic decked in light green opened in Weston; Cara Adams opened Agora Local Makers Market in Stevens Point (think Point’s version of The Local here); El Fuego opened in the former Eagle’s Nest building on Grand Avenue — and closed down several months later.

In Marathon City, Pizza Market has been going gangbusters since opening earlier this year; Blades and Boards opened its hatchet throwing business in Rib Mountain (fun, but you really gotta chuck that thing!); and Chop-Stix opened on Stewart Avenue, started by a former employee of Zhou’s Mongolian Barbecue.

We also saw Condor Coffee open up in Weston, in the small strip mall in front of Target; Frankie and Fletcher opened up in Washington Street train depot building with their reclaimed furniture and doodads; and Wisconsin home renovation company Tundraland opened its long-awaited showroom downtown.

Two new fitness places opened: FIRE Bootcamp opened in the former Burn Fitness Studio location in Weston; and RishiYoga brings a yoga experience directly from India.

Throughout 2018, many wondered if that brewery would ever open in Mosinee — one has been in the works for several years. We got an answer this winter when Mosinee Brewing Company opened in the city’s downtown. The attention to detail, including sourcing local builders and material, appears to have paid off as folks are raving about the place.

Speaking of drinking establishments, Timekeepers Distillery, announced in 2017, opened this year on Grant Street in Wausau next to Hiawatha Lounge, and it was worth the wait. Delicious cocktails in a rustic/fancy setting, and owner Dan Weber’s tours are fun. Speaking of the Hiawatha, it closed this summer while slated to open under new owners, but the deal fell through. So the Jamgochian brothers reopened it, with a nice remodel, in October.

And though it’s not up and running yet, plans were announced earlier this year for Whitewater Music Hall in the former Masonic Temple Lodge in downtown Wausau. The music hall, run by Kelly Ballard, her sister Leslie Patterson and husband Brad Ballard, will focus on Americana music and combine it with a beer hall. Though originally slated to open in January, the latest estimate after all the needed renovation is May.

And one transition we will be writing about soon: Community Soul Yoga, under the ownership of Kirsten Holmson, will become 401 Flow Yoga under the new ownership of three CSY teachers: Ashlie Montana Zeidler, Stephanie Fandrey and Sonja Gasper.

Several new noteworthy non-profits launched in 2018: Sheroes Among Us, The Silver Pageant and a new Marathon County Literacy office. And how cool is this: Bob Schneider and Sheila Starks from Executive Cleaning launched their Middle Grounds coffee shop, a non-profit cafe for teens. The Cycling Without Ages program, which expects to buy its first trishaws to give seniors bike rides, will start its program in Wausau early next year. It was good year for doing good!

The mall lost some stores this year, including long time staples Gamestop and Piercing Pagoda; but gained Flashback Clothing Company.

The biggest news on the mall front is good news: HOM Furniture is moving into the former Younkers building and work is underway now. That’ll hardly get folks to forget the movie theater deal that fell through for the vacant Sears building… though city officials say they’re still in talks to make it happen.

In Rib Mountain, work is underway on a building for a new Five Guys chain restaurant and Kay Jewelers. City Pages couldn’t get official word of whether the Kay Jeweler in Wausau Center Mall is closing when the Rib Mountain location opens, but mall officials say that’s the assumption.


Matt Kirsch founded Quester Party, a game startup funded at Kickstarter.

For most Buzz columns in 2018, though, we were writing about business happenings that did not involve brick and mortar. I won’t lie, one of my favorites is Quester Party, a tabletop card game developed by Matt Kirsch, founder of the famed Paddlequest roleplaying adventure that is about as Stevens Point as a thing could get. Kirsch had launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game’s printing, but ultimately fell short. A second Kickstarter campaign was successful, and the game shipped this month (I was excited to find my copy in my mailbox recently.)

This year also saw the launch of Wausau Spokeeasy, Wausau’s first peddle pub. Yep, Wausau caught up to our big-city cousins with this service in which people ride the mobile bar while peddling through town. I’ve never seen it traversing town without people turning heads, drivers honking their horns while giving thumbs up, or folks giving a wave from the sidewalk.

And foodies got super excited about the new Siren Shrub Company. It’s not a plant company! “Shrub” is a sipping vinegar that dates back in the colonial days and has been rediscovered to work quite well in modern fancy cocktails, not that I would have firsthand knowledge or anything. Hand it to Layne Cozzolino (Farmshed director) and Mindy McCord (in the Portage County Executive’s Office) for starting this wonderful business in Stevens Point. Right now you can find their shrubs at Downtown Grocery and Navieve Fromagerie.

This year also saw the launch of the Olive Brand Sign Company (painting signs in a party setting); 801 Threads and their fancy cool custom printing and embroidering business; a Wausau teen starting his own paving business; Trillium Creek Wedding and Party Barn; a barn party (and other party supply) rental business; and Be Your Own Biggest Fan, a motivational clothing company.