Danny would be 82 tomorrow had we not lost him suddenly in 2004. But his lagacy lives on in all that we do here at Shisler’s Cheese House!
Dan Shisler was born in Dalton in 1937 and graduated from Dalton High School in 1955. He was one of the best baseball players that ever came out of Dalton High School. He played for Ohio University and got drafted into the St. Louis Cardinals. Then came a shoulder injury that abruptly ended his pro baseball career.
Buying the Cheesehouse
So in 1959 he came back home and bought Shisler’s Cheese House, then a brand-new fledgling business, from his father, John Shisler. Dan quickly tripled the size of this business, with hard work and ingenuity in the retail. He was the one who developed our cherished concept of treating every customer like family.
Dan also started the shipping division of our business to serve locals who had moved out of the area. Back then, he had to vacuum-pack the products himself using a shop-vac and plastic bags made pliable in a bucket of hot water. We didn’t have the insulated shipping containers, the frozen gel packs, or dry ice we use to keep the products fresh today. Trail Bologna and Swiss Cheese were the only product he shipped, and he could only ship to the warmer climates during the winter months. Dan prided himself in finding the right size box, and would do a little happy dance when when we drove to Canton to drop the packages off at UPS.
The shipping division wasn’t very profitable at the time due to the effort and additional costs involved. But he seemed to do it out of a sense of service to his loyal long-term customers.
Today, we ship to all 50 states and over 30 countries year-round, and our shipping division is rapidly approaching our retail division as our primary business model. He had the foresight into the value of direct shipping long before Amazon was born.
Going from a professional baseball player to a cheese monger may not have been Dan’s dream. But he left a legacy of a successful retail business behind that has continued to thrive for 61 years.
We miss you, Dan. We are sure you are cutting lots of cheese in heaven and playing baseball every day, reciting the scores of every professional game in history and still dreaming of the St. Louis Cardinals. DJ and Dennis have followed in your footsteps in the cheese business. We still joke about your vacuum packing methods back then. we still remember you joking with the customers and keeping the landscaping around the store to perfection.
We love you, and are proud of three generations of Shislers , thanks to your hard work and dedication. The fourth generation is already becoming active in the business. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DANNY SHISLER….hope you and the angels are playing baseball and still savoring cheese today.
Very Nice Article about us by Dan Starcher of the Daily Record:
ORRVILLE — The small roadside store at the corner of U.S. Route 30 and Kidron Road, known as Shisler’s Cheese House, has served as a landmark to cheese connoisseurs, including comedian Bob Hope, for 60 years.
To celebrate, owner Rita Shisler is having a party. Festivities at the store, located at 55 Kidron Road, Orrville, started Friday and continue Saturday. There will be free bratwursts, prizes, music, face painting, a bounce house and, of course, cheese samples from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“I remember picking up the phone one day and the caller said, ‘This is Bob Hope and I would like to order some Baby Swiss,’” said Rita Shisler. “I didn’t believe it, but the check came with his name, address and signature. I talked to him four or five times per year, every year, until his death. After Bob died, his wife would call and order cheese until she passed away.”
Shisler didn’t exactly know how Hope heard of the store, but she kept copies of his checks and his signatures as mementos.
Another big-time order came courtesy of the owner of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.
“The team owner of the Chargers came in and had some ham,” Rita recalled. “He fell in love with it. He then had me ship them to every team owner across the United States. I did that for years. We packed them in coolers and enclosed a card. Even as new owners came along, we would send to them. He wanted all of the other owners to have some Streb’s Ham.”
Another story, Rita recalled, was when Grandpa John Shisler was taken to jail for operating the business on Sunday. “He purchased the store from Fred Bieri in 1958 and back then there was a law, the blue law, that you could not be open on Sunday to conduct business.”
“The family went to post bail but he refused,” said Rita. “They finally released him after a couple of days.”
John Shisler’s son, Dan, took over the store in 1959 and, after he and Rita were married, he went to work elsewhere and Rita took over operations. She has been growing the operation ever since. Dan passed away 14 years ago.
At 72 years old, Rita Shisler isn’t slowing down. In fact, she is as busy as ever serving in various civic organizations, but she is slowly turning business operations over to her son, Dennis, while her other son, DJ, runs a store in Copley.
Dennis served in the United States Marine Corps, attended college and worked in the corporate world for a number of years before returning to the family business.
“I never thought I would be here today. I never wanted to come back. I never wanted to live here. I never wanted anything to do with a small town,” said Dennis. “But after my daughter was born, I reconsidered.”
Since coming to work for his mother, Dennis has focused on modernizing operations and building the internet ordering component of the business.
“She has brought the store to this level and she is wonderful for public relations,” Dennis said. “She really brought this place to the next level from a marketing standpoint. She built up the retail business, and I want to expand it online and focus on website sales.”
A steady stream of loyal customers were pouring in on Friday as Rita was celebrating six decades of business with friends and family while offering bratwursts and cheese samples to customers outside.
“I have been making the trip here from Massillon for more than 30 years for Swiss cheese,” said Robert May. “Everything they have is great and the people are so friendly.”
Linda Nussbaum of Orrville has been frequenting the store for 40 years.
“We used to stop here and get cheese on our way to our grandparents’ house nearby,” said Nussbaum. “We would have it eaten before we got there.”
Rita attributes much of the success of the business to her mentor, Harold Freedlander, of the former Freedlander’s department store.
“I was struggling with the business and I went to SCORE (service corps of retired executives), and he became my mentor,” Rita said. “He helped and guided me and that is when things started to connect and the business began to turn around. I thank Harold Freedlander from the bottom of my heart.”
The original article in The Daily Record can be found here.
GREAT article about us in The Massillon Independent by Jolene Limbacher
ORRVILLE Say “cheese” and smile because Shisler’s Cheese House is celebrating its 60th anniversary Friday and Saturday with fun, food and festivities.
It’s a joyous occasion for matriarch Rita Shisler and her family, who have shepherded the small but mighty specialty food shop, which has been a longtime popular tourist stop on the east-west corridor of Rt. 30.
On Aug. 7, 1958, Grandpa John Shisler purchased the cheese house from Fred Bieri, an elderly cheesemaker from Switzerland. Now, six decades and tons and tons of cheese later, it’s time to party.
Throughout the next two days, the celebration will include music, prizes, face painting, characters from the movie “Frozen,” a bounce house and free cheese samples, hot dogs and grilled bratwurst.
The 900-square-foot store, which does a robust business:
- Sells 2,000 pounds of Swiss cheese alone every week.
- Offers imported cheeses from Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Holland.
- Carries 82 different kinds of local cheeses made at six Holmes County cheese factories.
- Shipped cheese and gourmet products to 30 different countries last year.
- Ships to every state in the United States, with the most cheese and bologna going to Florida.
- Has shipped hams made at nearby Streb’s Meats to every National Football League owner.
- Used to send a wheel of baby Swiss every Christmas to legendary comedian Bob Hope. After he died at age 100 in 2003, the shipments continued to his widow, Dolores, until her death in 2011.
It’s a shame, Rita Shisler lamented, that many people only know about pre-packaged cheese that’s cut into slices, wrapped in cellophane and sold as “processed cheese.”
“They have no idea what fresh cheese tastes like,” she said. “Once they taste it, they absolutely fall in love with it.”
Jailed for keeping Sunday hours
For 49 years, Shisler has been opening the store at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 9 a.m on Sundays. She’s the good-will ambassador with the personal touch and instant rapport with customers, chatting about where they’re from, how many children and grandchildren they have and how they must try their latest kind of cheese.
She reminisced about Grandpa Shisler, who at 19 years old, became the youngest postmaster of Dalton in 1909, a position that was once a political appointment. He held that job for 16 years.
He was quite the rebel, she recalls, because soon after he bought the store in 1958, he didn’t cotton to being told what hours he could keep.
Until, that is, the Wayne County sheriff conducted a sting operation by sending an employee to the store on a Sunday to buy a loaf of bread. With sirens blaring, they hauled a defiant Grandpa off to jail for violating Ohio’s now-defunct blue law, which prohibited retail activity on Sundays.
Then, to punctuate his personal dislike of government dictating his business hours, he refused to allow son Dan to bail him out right away. Grandpa was 76 when he died in 1966.
“I would not have gone to jail,” said Rita Shisler. “I would have followed the law and closed the store.”
Under Dan Shisler’s ownership, which began in 1959, the store grew by leaps and bounds. Rita Shisler said her husband was one of the best baseball players to come out of Dalton High School. From there, he went to Ohio University where he played ball, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, but tore up his shoulder and never fulfilled his dream of playing in the majors.
After Dan and Rita married, he turned the store over to her and became delicatessen and wine manager at the former A & D Foodarama. They opened a second location — Shisler’s Cheese & Wine Barrel — in the Belden Village area in 1974. That store was closed seven years later so they could spend time with sons, Daniel (DJ) and Dennis before they graduated high school and went to college.
Rita’s husband died 14 years ago.
With an estimated 40,000 cars a day passing Shisler’s Cheese House, Rita Shisler said about 80 percent of their customers are tourists or folks who frequently travel to the Columbus and Canton areas.
Plans call for expanding the current structure late this fall, making it at least three times larger and having a dining area for soups and sandwiches. Dennis, a third-generation Shisler who manages the store, which is just outside of Dalton, would like to construct a building nearby to expedite shipping orders. Sixty percent of shipments, he said, go to the Tampa-Clearwater area, crediting much of those sales to local people who have moved South.
The family also has discussed opening stores in the Greater Tampa area, Dallas and perhaps Reno.
A second location is open in Copley at 1275 Cleveland-Massillon Road and is owned by son Daniel Shisler. It offers catering, deli sandwiches and soup, wines and a large variety of specialty foods.
At 72, Rita Shisler remains active in Orrville Lions Club, Dalton Ruritans, Women’s Network of Wooster and Akron, and Quota International, a women’s group that assists community members with hearing problems. The store employs many area students, who Shisler mentors about business and doing what’s right.
Dennis Shisler and his wife, Claudia, have a nine-year-old daughter, Natalia, who, as a fourth-generation Shisler, enjoys being in the store with her grandmother and running the cash register and making change.
See the full text of the original article in the Massillon Independent here.