It All Started with Cheese
Tucked in the gently rolling hills of beautiful Monroe, Wisconsin, The Swiss Colony began in the entrepreneurial spirit of a young Ray Kubly.
Ray was a senior at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1925 when he drew up an advertising campaign for a marketing class. Since Ray’s hometown is the unofficial cheese capital of the biggest cheese-producing state in the nation, the theoretical company would sell cheese by mail-order.
After graduating in 1926, Ray took his class project and began to mold it into reality from the basement of his home in Monroe. He mailed out handbills, which he himself designed and stamped, that advertised cuts of Wisconsin-made bulk cheeses for the upcoming holidays. As orders came in, he cut the huge wheels of cheese into pieces by hand, then wrapped and shipped them. In his first year of business, he sold all 50 packages of cheese that he had prepared.
By 1941, Ray’s Christmas cheese gift company—The Swiss Colony—had grown to include 100 seasonal employees and a payroll of $19,000. The Swiss Colony’s client list would grow to include Eleanor Roosevelt, Bud Abbott (of Abbott and Costello), Senator J. William Fulbright, James Stewart, Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, and other celebrities wanting to give gourmet cheese gifts. By 1948, the Milwaukee Road had to send an extra boxcar to Monroe daily from early December until Christmas to handle the demand for cheese.
In 1954, Ray Kubly incorporated The Swiss Colony from the enterprise begun in his basement.
During all this time, Ray never quit his day job. He was vice president and general manager of Lakeshire-Marty (a division of Borden) in 1961 when he quit to run his own company.