MILWAUKEE — Roundy's newest Pick N' Save store here enjoyed a visit from Santa Claus last month — an unconventional Santa carved from almost two tons of Wisconsin cheddar.
Cheese sculptor Sarah Kaufmann, known to many in the industry as “The Cheese Lady,” was commissioned by Roundy's to create a life-sized Santa from three 640-pound blocks of Wisconsin mild cheddar — the same cheddar that is sold under Roundy's private label.
During her four-day project in the dairy department of the 100,000-square-foot-plus store here, Kaufmann cut, carved, added details and answered questions as customers looked on.
“Is that real cheese?” was a frequent question.
To underscore the realness, Pick N' Save associates offered customers tastes of Roundy's brand cheddar, told them it was the same variety Kaufmann was using to create Santa, and pointed them toward a nearby display.
Kaufmann told SN the event got a lot of attention from the local media.
“Two local newspapers were there and the local TV stations. Then CNN picked up the story.”
With that and network affiliates also airing the story, Roundy's new store, Santa and Kaufmann hit the evening news as far west as New Mexico, Arizona and California.
On the fourth day, after Kaufmann carved into the night to complete Santa, a small ceremony was held in the dairy department. Pick N' Save and Roundy's officials attended.
They said the Santa was one way of extending a holiday greeting to customers.
After it was all over, and Santa was ready to be photographed with customers' children, SN interviewed Kaufmann, about how she does her work.
“We needed forklifts to set the blocks on top of one another. Then we create an inner structure with vertical rods of cold, rolled steel,” she explained.
There's a wood platform under each of the blocks of cheese, which helps to support the weight and keep the 66-inch figure upright.
“Cheddar is the best cheese to work with because it's dense and consistent,” Kaufmann said.
Santa's integrity is protected by the cold air coming off the dairy cases. Then at night, the sculpture is rolled on a skid into a walk-in cooler.
Kaufmann, who worked for years as advertising/communications manager at Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio, set out on her own years ago as a freelance cheese sculptor.
Since then, she's been busy traveling the country, carving cheese figures at supermarkets, state fairs, trade shows and other events.
Prior to creating Pick N' Save's cheese Santa, she had just finished a holiday figure at a new Earthfare store in Chattanooga, Tenn. Other supermarkets she has carved for include Kroger, Sam's Club, Brookshire Bros. and Bristol Farms.