Figi’s Gifts in Good Taste – 70th Anniversary 2014
Wow! 70 years of delivering millions of Gifts in Good Taste across America! We wanted to say ‘thank you!’ to all of our customers over the years and hope you’ll entrust your holiday gift giving to us for another 70 years. To show our appreciation, and to celebrate our first 70 years in business, Figi’s will be running several special promotions the week of October 19th, during what we call ‘Founder’s Week,’ so you’ll want to check our website and Figi’s emails to see our exciting Founder’s Week specials – created especially for you! If you are not receiving emails from Figi’s, you should sign up here; you don’t want to miss Founder’s Week’s email promotions!
How it all began 70 years ago…
It’s 1944: a young entrepreneur and federal cheese inspector named John Figi, wanted to make Wisconsin’s finest cheese available through the mail using a “Cheese of the Month” concept. Using a phone directory, John and his wife, Ann selected 1,500 addresses of people they though would be interested in their club. John and Ann mailed postcards to the 1,500 addresses, introducing the club and soliciting orders; while only 43 orders came in, it was a great beginning!
Cheese of the Month Club Ads
John and Ann personally sorted the orders, cut 200 one-pound wheels and 70 one-pound blocks of cheese on their kitchen table, sealed the cheese cuts in max they heated on their stove, and packaged the orders. The finest Colby, Cheddar, and Swiss cheeses were packed high in the family refrigerator.
At that time, John didn’t have a way to get his customers’ orders to the post office. But that wasn’t about to stop John; he borrowed a red coaster wagon from a friend and used the wagon to deliver all 43 packages to the post office. The rest, as they say…is history. “Cheese of The Month” changed to “The Wisconsin Cheese Club” in 1947; the company changed it’s name to “Figi’s, Inc.” in 1961.
The Legend of the Figi’s Red Wagon
Next week’s blogs will showcase our Founder’s Week promotions and company-wide celebration of our milestone anniversary. Be sure to visit our 70th Anniversary page at figis.com where you’ll find company history and photos, a special video and two commemorative collectibles.
We thought it would be fun to jump in the time machine and travel back to our 20th Anniversary…a time when Figi’s shared the spotlight with the world’s largest cheese and the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.
Figi’s 20th Anniversary Celebration
On a Saturday evening in 1964, 800 guests attended Figi’s 20th Anniversary Celebration in Marshfield, Wisconsin; our headquarters remains in Marshfield to this day. The grand affair consisted of a tour of the Figi’s facilities, cheese and wine tasting, and the opportunity to view, get this…a 34,951-pound cheddar cheese created for the Wisconsin Exhibit at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. That’s over 17 tons of cheddar! This mammoth cheddar, known as the ‘Golden Giant,’ was made for the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation for the express purposes of promoting Wisconsin cheese around the world. At what better place to promote Wisconsin cheese to the world than the World’s Fair in New York City!
World’s Largest Cheese a.k.a The ‘Golden Giant’
The ‘Golden Giant’ was on display during Figi’s 20th Anniversary gala before embarking for New York City. This huge cheese was manufactured by Steve’s Cheese near Denmark, Wisconsin (not far from Green Bay). The cheese making process took 43 ½ hours of continuous work by a crew of 25. The crew included four Wisconsin cheese makers who had won the famed ‘World’s Champion Cheddar Cheesemaking’ award. Approximately 170,000 quarts of milk was used to make this mammoth cheese; it was the largest single piece of cheese ever made! The Golden Giant’s dimensions were 6 ½ feet wide, 5 ½ feet tall and 14 ½ feet long. While most mammoth cheese are made cylindrical, the Golden Giant was made rectangular so it could be transported by refrigerated trucks and train cars.
In April of 1964, the Golden Giant was loaded into a special glass sided trailer and transported by diesel tractor to the New York World’s Fair – Wisconsin exhibition area. Interesting trivia: the semi trailer and a replica of the Golden Giant cheese are still on display in Neillsville, WI – just a few miles from the Figi’s corporate office.
Touring with the ‘Cheesemobile’
It is estimated that the Golden Giant was seen by 12 million people during the two years of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. After appearing at the Fair, the Cheesemobile toured the United States, stopping at major cities, various expositions, fairs and shopping centers, carrying the story of Wisconsin cheese to the nations. And to think: the Golden Giant debuted right here in little Marshfield, Wisconsin at a Figi’s 20th Anniversary Celebration!
Do you have a favorite Figi’s memory you’d like to share? Share with us in the Comments below or join the conversation on Facebook & Google+. Thanks again for reading our blog; we’ll be back soon with more 70th Anniversary updates!