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Then and Now -
Four Generations in the making!


It all started in Ottawa in 1942. Norbert and Marie Ruhland opened their state-of-the-art cheese factory; Ottawa Milk Products Company.

Norb was following in a long line of cheese makers. His father, Robert and brother Ray operated the cheese factory in West Brooklyn, IL. Norb took the dairy courses through the University of Wisconsin in 1937-38. He then purchased the Corn Belt Milk Products in Ottawa, eventually opening a brand new establishment.

Mr. Ruhland produced an estimated 800,000 pounds of cheese in 1942. This figure continued to grow until the company stopped production in 1986. 30 small dairies around Ottawa once supplied the Ruhland’s with all the milk they needed to produce their cheeses. Many of the Ruhland children would get up early before school and load milk cans from local farms, just finishing in time to walk to school.


Owner Marty Ruhland is the last of the Ruhland’s eight children to be working at the hidden gem along Ottawa’s I & M Canal, The Cheese Shop and Deli. Marty started the business within a business with his brother Bob while working for their father, Norb. Several other siblings spent their time, sweat, and energy earning money for extras in their teen-age years.

In its early stages, the brothers focused on specialty cheeses and cuts of the cheeses which they produced in the factory under the same roof. Eventually adding slicing meats, chili, as well as gift trays and boxes for the holidays, the business began to grow. A kitchen was added in 1990 in the spot of the former cheese factory. All production equipment was sold, and in its place, display cases, counters, a seating area and hundreds of antiques!

The love of his beginning in the cheese business is quite apparent throughout the building where milk bottles, early dairy advertising, creamers, and turn-of–century objects adorn every nook and cranny in its historic location.

Ruhland has shared his tremendous work ethic and love for customer satisfaction with his three children, several nieces and nephews, and even his granddaughter! They have all spent holidays, hours after school, and many summer nights earning a living while learning how to treat people so they return to your place of business when they have so many to choose from.

The business is what it is today from our very loyal customers that have spread the news, "If you want good food at a fair price and plenty of it, go to The Cheese Shop!"

Marty shares the business and memorable history with his wife of 40 years, Sally. His son, Matt will always be found in the kitchen, waiting on a familiar face at the counter, or hauling in the huge food orders that are now his responsibility. Marty definitely knows his dad would be proud of the legacy that they continue each day. It shows on the smiles of customers as they leave with their bellies full and their minds on the selection they will try the next time they come to The Cheese Shop & Deli!