The History of Minerva Dairy
Minerva Dairy Inc. of Minerva, OH was founded in 1894 when 1st generation Max P. Radloff established Radloff Cheese in Hustiford, WI. During the early 1900s, Max built multiple cheesemaking locations, culminating with Minerva Dairy, which began producing bottled milk, ice cream, butter, and cheese in 1935.
Today, in our 5th and 6th Generations of family ownership, Minerva Dairy still produces an 84% Batch Churned Amish Butter as well as a wide variety of cheese that includes Cheddar, Swiss, Italian, and Kosher varieties. We are America's oldest family-owned cheese and butter dairy!
1st Generation 1894 - 1962
In 1894, 1st generation Max P. Radloff purchased the Hustiford Creamery, in Hustisford, WI, when he was only 21 years old. His father, who was born in Germany, had immigrated to the U.S. in the 1870s and was a successful furniture maker and hardware store operator in Hustiford. Unlike his father, Max was not interested in furniture; his true passion was dairy.
Throughout the early 1900s, Max found success with his dairy operation, so he began to look for new opportunities to expand his business. In 1935, Max purchased his 20th location in Minerva at Minerva Dairy's present location.
By 1940, Max had 26 locations producing cheese and butter in multiple states, but as refrigeration and transportation improved, the facilities were consolidated into two locations: Minerva and Hustisford.
After the plants were consolidated into two locations, the Hustisford location became a small facility that specialized in handcrafted cheeses. These cheeses included brick, flavored cheeses, and fresh curds. In fact, throughout its many years, the Hustisford plant only employed around 10 workers at a time. Unfortunately, the Hustisford location was forced to close its doors in 2003 after 111 years of cheese production.
2nd Generation 1912 - 1962
The Minerva plant: After 1st Generation Max P. Radloff purchased the old PET Milk Company facility, he sent his son, 2nd Generation Roland Radloff, to be the 1st Cheesemaker at Minerva Dairy. Roland continued to fill this role for the factory until his wife's untimely death from the flu in 1938.
3rd Generation 1934 - 2003
At this time, 3rd Generation Lorraine Radloff and her husband, Delbert Mueller, moved to Ohio on their honeymoon to take over production at the facility. Due to family infighting between Lorraine and Delbert's families that their marriage caused, they decided it was best for everyone if they started anew in Ohio.
Upon arriving at the Minerva plant, neither of the pair could have imagined how dilapidated and in need of repair the facility was. To add to their plight, neither Lorraine nor Delbert could speak English since they were raised in a German-speaking area of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, anything German at this time was not very popular due to World War II and the uncertainty of the times. In order to be accepted into the community, the Muellers donated the surrounding land of their facility to the city in order to build a park, and stopped speaking German. They even went so far as to not teach their children German due to its negative connotation at the time.
The Muellers were able to turn the tables as success began to come their way. During their years of ownership, Minerva Dairy bottled milk and made ice cream in addition to producing cheese and butter. In addition, Lorraine started an Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar that eventually became our present-day store. In 1962, Lorraine inherited ownership of the dairy from her father, 2nd Generation Roland Radloff, and changed the company's name from Radloff & Sons Inc. to Minerva Cheese Inc. Lorraine and Delbert continued to run their business until Delbert's unexpected death in 1976. At this time, Lorraine began the process of passing the family business onto her son, 4th Generation Phil Mueller.
4th Generation 1964 - Present
Having only begun working at the family business full-time in 1972, 4th Generation Phil Mueller was feeling anything but prepared to take over the family business after his father's unexpected death. In order to keep the company afloat, Phil took his father's words to heart, "When the times get tough, put your head down and work longer hours."
During these years, Phil Mueller got up early every morning and went to work, came home for supper, and then went back to work until 11PM. Phil was able to transition from producing for private-label companies to producing his own Minerva Dairy-labeled products. He created a Minerva Dairy label and the Minerva Maid. In addition, he created a 4-H program for young farmers to allow them to learn about their cows and production capabilities. Throughout the years, Phil has made a number of contributions to the company including his famous Minerva Lace and his Signature Raw Milk Cheddar.
5th Generation 1990 - Present
Throughout the 2000s, Phil began to hand the reins of the family business over to his children, 5th Generation Adam Mueller and Venae Watts. As the 5th Generation continues to grow the business, they always consider their past and the family heritage that makes Minerva Dairy what it is today.
6th Generation 2013 - Present
Adam and Venae's 12 children, which make up the 6th Generation of the Mueller family, have already begun to learn the family trade. The oldest of the 6th Generation is already contributing to the business, working part-time while completing their schooling; they are ages 18, 15, and 14. Just like the generations before them, they are introduced to the business at a young age so that they can learn to appreciate the business and all its complexities.